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The 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It

The 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It

by David Niven

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What are the essential qualities of a great relationship? What do people in healthy and happy relationships do differently? Scientists and academics have spent entire careers investigating the nature of relationships, dating, and marriage, yet their findings are inaccessible to ordinary people, hidden in obscure journals read only by other academics. Now the


What are the essential qualities of a great relationship? What do people in healthy and happy relationships do differently? Scientists and academics have spent entire careers investigating the nature of relationships, dating, and marriage, yet their findings are inaccessible to ordinary people, hidden in obscure journals read only by other academics. Now the bestselling author of the 100 Simple Secrets series has collected the most current and significant data from more than a thousand studies on relationships and spells out the key findings in plain English. The advice is not based on one person's unique experiences or opinions, but offers for the first time the research of noted scientists studying the lives and loves of average Americans. Each of the findings is accompanied by a true story that shows the results in action.

  • Love is hard to calculate: Researchers have proven that a partner's age, income, education, and religion are unrelated factors in the likelihood of relationship satisfaction.
  • Always trying to win can lead to a major loss: People who feel a sense of competition with their partner are 37 percent less likely to feel that their relationship is satisfying.
  • leave the past in the past: More than 40 percent of people report that jealousy over a previous relationship is a source of conflict in their current relationship.

Editorial Reviews

Psychologists and sociologists spend careers researching how relationships work, but most of us just muddle through. In this welcome addition to his 100 Simple Secrets series, Dr. David Niven uses a science-savvy, interdisciplinary approach to help daters and couples solve pestiferous problems. This lively yet thoroughly informative guide blends recent scientific studies about relationships and real-life stories.
Library Journal
Like a good Irish sermon, each of these 100 secrets is meaningful, satisfying, and quickly delivered. A pattern soon emerges: psychologist Niven (The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People) relates a bit of conventional wisdom, e.g., "There's no need to hurry," then uses an anecdote to illustrate it, e.g., movie mogul Barry Diller and fashion designer Diane Von Furstenburg waited more than 25 years to get married. A nugget of scientific study then confirms the analysis: "Marrying later in life has no negative effect on satisfaction with the relationship, or with life." Motivated readers will scurry for the featured studies, mostly from dissertations or academic articles in professional journals, like the one above from L.P. Juang and R.K. Silbereisen's 2001 report in American Behavioral Scientist. Libraries might also consider Warren Berland's Out of the Box for Life, which devotes brief sections to discrete issues (e.g., fat and anger) that readers work through by thinking "out of the box." Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Columbus Dispatch
“How does one find happiness, that elusive emotion? Social scientist David Niven has helped unlock the mystery.”

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100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships

What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It
By David Niven

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 David Niven
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0061157902

Chapter One

The Mundane Is Heroic

Some tasks we think of as difficult and their achievement noteworthy. Others we think of as boring and their achievement insignificant. Of course, the tasks that are noteworthy are often built on a foundation of the mundane. Firefighters study lifesaving techniques and firefighting protocols for years on end, and then one day they are called on to use their skills and knowledge to save a building and the people in it. Without the years of mundane commitment, there would be no moment of great achievement. We recognize that having a long-standing healthy relationship is an achievement. If you are married long enough, the local newspaper will take your picture and write up your story. But that achievement is built on a nearly infinite series of actions, including a daily, hourly, moment-to-moment commitment to each other. It is certainly not always easy, and the rewards are not always immediately apparent, but sacrificing your immediate preferences and being committed to sharing, caring, and listening are mundane but heroic steps toward your lifetime relationship goal.

Even before they dated, Kathy and William began working out together. Later, after they married, their interest and success in running led them to set a goal of running together in theBoston Marathon. After training for three years together working toward that goal, Kathy's best time qualified her for the race and William's did not.

William could have reacted in a variety of ways, all of them perfectly normal, given human nature. He could have wallowed in self-pity, dragging both himself and his wife down and making her feel somehow guilty for his exclusion. He could have asked Kathy to wait until they could run together. He could have resented his wife's ability to achieve and tried to sabotage her.

"A big part of me wished I was out there running the marathon, of course," admitted William. "So what did I do on race day? I went out to five or six locations and cheered her on." William chose to encourage rather than discourage. "I lived vicariously through her. Her success is my success."

William says that in working out together, as in life together, jealousy, envy, and other unpleasant emotions can visit relationships, but the most important thing to remember is that "we're a team every day--race day, too. We have to be able to give each other the freedom to be able to develop our own talents. To not stand in each other's way, but to stand with each other, helping if we can, watching if we can't."

The ability to maintain open, healthy communication in a relationship is associated with strong levels of such highly regarded personal qualities as self-restraint, courage, generosity, commitment to justice, and good judgment.

Fowers 2001

Chapter Two

See Possibilities Where Others See Obstacles

In any relationship, it is possible to find evidence that suggests the relationship will thrive or evidence that predicts it just won't work. Even the strongest, best relationships experience problems that suggest it might not last. And even in the most tenuous relationships, there are reasons to think it just might work well. The real question is which evidence you pay more attention to. Constant attention to the weaknesses of any relationship will weaken it. Constant attention to the strengths of any relationship will strengthen it.

It is perhaps the ultimate example of love and devotion trumping religious differences and the associated political differences: Pam is Jewish, Adil is Muslim, and they have been happily married for more than a decade.

Adil explains the effort it takes to keep his world in order: "When I am with my mother I say 'we' about the Muslims, and when I am here with my wife I say 'we' about the Jews. Sometimes I stop and don't know what to say--'we, they.'"

"The political issues can go on and on," Pam sighed. "But I always like to take things back to our lives, to here and now."

When they met, Adil was interested in asking Pam out on a date but worried she might not want to be involved with a Muslim. "I remember this tension, thinking if I should tell her right away that I am a Muslim," he recalled.

"I wasn't oblivious and I was well aware of the differences," she said. "But I thought I had the courage to manage." While both sets of parents were ultimately supportive, the society Adil and Pam chose to inhabit wasn't.

"People are so intense," said Pam. "Everywhere you go it is Jew, Arab, Arab, Jew. You can't just be." There have been many double takes, criticisms, and insults. Too many to count.

Determined and in love, Adil and Pam have worked to straddle the distance between Jewish and Muslim cultures, to exist in the open. In the meantime, symbols and sounds of coexistence permeate their home. Their dining room armoire displays a Koran next to a menorah. The family celebrates Jewish holidays alongside Muslim ones.

"It is possible for this to work," Pamela said. "A committed couple can survive. If we had considered only the difficulties, we would have nothing. But we saw past them, and now we have everything that matters."

"If there is anything our relationship might suggest about how our two worlds can get along, it is compromise," Adil said. "It's the magic word."

In an experiment performed with couples who were experiencing conflict, half of the couples were asked to discuss the best part of their relationship and half to discuss the worst aspect of their relationship. Couples discussing the positive side of their relationship reduced their stress level by 15 percent, while couples discussing the negative side saw their stress level increase 48 percent.

Sullivan 2001


Excerpted from 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships by David Niven Copyright © 2006 by David Niven. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

David Niven, Ph.D., bestselling author of the 100 Simple Secrets series, is a psychologist and social scientist who teaches at Ohio State University.

David Niven, Ph.D., es el autor de los bestsellers internacionales Los 100 Secretos de la Gente Exitosa, y Los 100 Secretos de las Buenas Relaciones. Es psicólogo y científico social, y enseña en la Florida Atlantic University.

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