If you're part of a couple, chances are you remember the exact moment you first met your mate. Well, it turns out that how a couple first met isn't just fodder for Hollywood romantic comedies, but might just predict whether a relationship thrives or falters.
That's according Faith Salie and Mario Correa, hosts of the RelationShow, a show about couples and relationships on member station WNYC.
Correa, who comes from a Latin American Catholic family, tells Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin that, being "all about rules," he wanted to know if there were rules for how you should meet your mate.
"Is it better if you meet someone through friends, as opposed to 'I-just-spotted-you-across-the-street.com?'" Correa says for example.
Salie says she also wanted to debunk what she calls the "meet cute" trope so prevalent in romantic comedies. That's "the one that says you have to meet your mate in some preposterously cute way," Salie says.
So, they went out and talked to couples about how they met.
Becky And Jeremy
About 22 years ago, a mutual friend suggested Becky and Jeremy meet. For reasons she can't quite explain, Becky decided to sit down and write Jeremy a letter.
"It was a love letter," Jeremy says.
The letter basically said: "Will you marry me? I don't know you, but I want to marry you."
Becky actually mailed the letter, and when Jeremy got it, he says the first thing he did of course was to show it to his fraternity brothers.
"Look, I'm getting love letters from people I don't even know!" he says.
It was a bold move, but one that appears to have worked since the couple is still together.
Alice And Chauncey
Alice and Chauncey met at a Gay Pride event in a gay bar, where Chauncey had been hired to model. Shockingly, Alice did not figure him to be straight.
"I thought, maybe he's just a gay man flirting with me because that's happened many times before," Alice says.
Alice says she didn't know until later in the night when Chauncey held her hand and finally kissed her. Chauncey says he thought it was a clue when he asked her to take his shirt off, but Alice still thought he was just being a "flirty gay guy."
"That's pretty obvious to me," Chauncey says.
So What Does 'The Meet' Tell Us?
So these couples met in very different ways, obviously, and to find out what it could portend, Salie and Correa talked to John Gottman, a pioneer in the field of relationship science.
Gottman says how a couple meets really doesn't matter. What matters, he says, is how the couple tells the story.
"You can really tell when people have a very positive 'story of us,' Gottman said. "They're sitting close, they're smiling [and] there's a relish in telling the story."
On the other hand, Gottman says if the couple isn't doing well in the relationship, the story can be very general, the memories negative and it can be like "pulling teeth" to get them to talk about how they met.
So it might seem obvious that a happy couple would tell a more positive story and vice versa, but Correa says that what Gottman does is to interview the couple over many years and listen to how the story evolves.
"Each time any of us tells a story, it changes a little bit," Correa says. "So he studies the same couples over many years ... and he listens for these changes."
By listening to those changes, Correa says Gottman can predict fairly accurately where a relationship is headed.
Dissecting The Story
Salie and Correa shared the stories of Becky and Jeremy and Alice and Chauncey with Gottman. Even though they weren't part of his longer studies, he said that their snapshots tell a lot about the couples.
Gottman said Becky and Jeremy had a way of enjoying one another's sense of humor and were very complimentary, a good sign. What was missing in Alice and Chauncey's story, he says, was Chauncey saying positive things about Alice.
"She says a lot of positive things about him but he's really saying, 'You know, she missed a lot of cues,'" he says. "So he's kind of criticizing her."
They're a new couple, however, and Gottman said there's still time to course correct.
So remember, the next time you tell the story of how you met your husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, be sure to stay positive.
Faith Salie and Mario Correa co-host WNYC Public Radio's RelationShow.
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