Psychologist John Gottman has a crazy party trick: He can watch a married couple interacting and then predict with 94 percent certainty whether they will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. Intense, right? Well, in a recent Atlantic article, Gottman revealed the key to a good marriage…

John Gottman says: “[Happy couples] 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. [Unhappy couples] 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…There are two ways to think about kindness. 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.

Fascinating, right? It can be easy to spot negative things (dirty dishes! late arrival to the restaurant!), but actively looking for things to appreciate is such a great habit to build. Everyone knows that relationships are hard work during tough times, but this article helped me realize that it’s good to work on marriage all the time, even when things are going well. I love the idea of creating a culture of goodwill and purposefully striving to see your partner through rose-colored glasses. I’m going to try to be more conscious of this. My mom once told me that Dr. Phil says marriage and family should be a “soft place to fall.” What a lovely visual.

Thoughts? Do you strive to be kind in your relationship? Have you ever been in a critical relationship? You feel like you’re walking on eggshells! Read the full Atlantic article here, if you’d like.

This is part of a series called “What We’re Reading“—featuring interesting articles on different topics we find during the week. I know most of you are big readers. Hope you like it!

P.S. The little things, and how to keep the spark alive.

(Photo of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward)