What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?
~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau
As a result of years of study, psychologist Dr. John Gottman can watch a married couple interacting (like at a party) and within three hours predict with 94 percent certainty whether that couple will stay married or divorce. Sound unbelievable? Well, in an Atlantic article, Gottman revealed the keys to a good marriage—kindness and generosity. Gottman and his wife Julie, also a psychologist, are renowned experts on marital stability and run The Gottman Institute, which is devoted to helping couples build and maintain loving, healthy relationships based on scientific studies.
Gottman separates couples into two major groups: the masters (happy couples) and the disasters (unhappy couples). He says, “[Masters] are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”
“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”
Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there….
Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage…. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work.
When I read this article earlier this week, it reminded me of the vital importance of working on marriage everyday—when things are going well and particularly when things are not so well (like during a fight). Sometimes, it’s so easy to focus on the negative, but how much nicer it is to focus on kindness and generosity of spirit. I hope to be more mindful of this. There’s evidence that shows the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves. I can’t help but think of my little one. You know that I want him to grow up to be a healthy and happy little citizen of the world, but more importantly, I want him to be a kind one. That means I need to exercise my muscle of kindness in marriage, at all times, because healthy relationships require sustained hard work.
Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from Daniel Rose, chef and owner of Spring in Paris
This is a simple, delicious and rich butternut squash soup made with sweet potato and a little honey. I made slight adaptations to the original recipe to make it vegan.
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, diced into ¼-inch pieces
1 tablespoon honey
1 large (2¼- to 2½-pound) butternut squash
1 medium sweet potato
1 cup plant milk (I used almond milk)
3 cups light vegetable broth
salt and freshly ground pepper
pumpkin seeds, toasted
Halve butternut squash lengthwise, scoop out seeds and place squash on a cutting board cut side down. Remove peel using a sharp knife or strong vegetable peeler. Cut flesh into 1-inch cubes.
Peel sweet potato and cut into 1-inch cubes.
Heat olive oil in a stockpot set over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes.
Add squash and sweet potato and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in honey and cook for another 5 minutes. Add milk and water and bring to a simmer. Lower heat slightly and gently simmer until squash and potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.
Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender and purée until completely smooth.
Pour soup back into stockpot and bring it back up to a simmer. If the soup is too thick, loosen it with just enough broth or water so the soup has the consistency of heavy cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning with some salt, a generous amount of black pepper and a bit of honey, if needed.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of oil, chopped parsley, pumpkin seeds and freshly ground pepper. Serve with country bread.