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.)