Tag Archives: positive interactions

Avoid Divorce with 5:1 Ratio

I’m enjoying some family time this week, so I wanted to re-publish a few posts with research that has really stuck with me and resonated with readers. This is one of my favorite tips:

If you had a social scientist on your shoulder for a day, how many positive interactions would he count between you and your spouse? That could include a good morning kiss, a playful pat, a compliment, a thank you, or a hug for washing the laundry. Now, think about how many negative interactions he would count, including rolling eyes or nonverbal communication, as well as complaints, snide remarks, cut downs or any other unhappy interaction.

During a 26-year study, psychologist and author John Gottman, PhD, discovered why married couples fail or succeed. It came down to this simple fact: Couples who maintain a five-to-one ratio of positive to negative interactions usually succeed. Those who fall below a one-to one-ratio usually fail.

Surprisingly, even if the relationship had a lot of other problems, this one fact still held true. So, even volatile couples, or couples that tend to avoid conflict can still succeed.

Dr. Gottman explained in his research that the one negative interaction is actually crucial to success, because conflict helps couples clear the air and work out grievances. It creates somewhat of a renewal when the conflict is worked out.

Make it a point to ask your partner about their day, tell them you love them on the phone and give them a hug or kiss when you part. All the little things will add up to a stronger marriage.

(Originally published here at Marriage Gems in May 2009.)

4 Proven Secrets to Long Marriage Part II: Stay Positive

In the Part I, we learned how important it is to respond positively to our partner’s good news. We also learned that individuals in successful, happy relationships each experience a higher ratio of positive to negative emotions than do those in unsuccessful relationships. Positive emotions—even fleeting ones—have the power to help us connect with others.

Having an upbeat outlook enables people to see the big picture and avoid getting hung up on small annoyances,” says psychologist Barbara L. Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. “This wide-angle view often brings to new light new possibilities and offers solutions to difficult problems, making individuals better at handling adversity in relationships and other parts of life. It also tends to dismantle boundaries between “me” and “you,” creating stronger emotional attachments. (Remember the Power of We in Relationships?)

We’ve heard about Dr. Gottman’s 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions in a relationship, but Fredrickson studied positive emotions by each individual and found even when the ratio is 3:1 it helps them become more resilient in life and love.

How can we help boost positive emotions? Try to schedule activities often in places that exude positive energy for you, such as a nature hike or meetings in a restaurant you love. Surround yourself with scents and sounds that make you happy. Keep a collage of photos that make you smile on your desk, next to your bed, or wherever you spend time. Keep upbeat music on your ipod or stereo playing positive lyrics. Spend a few minutes hugging your spouse (and children) at the end of the day. Play with your pet.

Scientific American’s December 2009 article, “The Happy Couple: Secrets to a Long Marriage” provides more details.

What do you do to maintain a positive, upbeat attitude, or is this a struggle for you? I know when I’m not feeling well, or the weather has been cold or dreary for a long time, I struggle to be positive. Music helps change my mood.

Read Part I, Part III and Part IV for the other three secrets.