Tag Archives: avoid divorce

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.)

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Read This if You EVER Have Conflict in Your Marriage

Well, that should be all of you, then, because we ALL have conflict in our relationships. (If you don’t, that’s also a problem. Read Avoid Divorce with 5:1 Ratio.) And hopefully we have learned that not all conflict is bad, because it can help us improve situations where one or both of us isn’t feeling satisfied. Conflict helps us clear the air. That being said, conflict in marriage sometimes really stinks. We can’t wait to get over it, and we know we can’t always avoid it.

Let’s assume you aren’t expecting too much of your spouse, and realize your spouse can’t meet all your needs. You’ve already tried the four no-talking tools to boost your relationship. But you continue to quarrel. Here’s another idea to try during a disagreement. The suggestion is followed by some strong relationship research reminders thanks to all those love doctors out there.

The first tip is from personal experience. There are times when talking things out just get too heated, or you don’t feel like you are expressing yourself in the way you mean to. Or your spouse keeps interrupting to give his/her side (that’s a no-no, folks). Anyway, I’ve found typing out an email expressing my feelings or frustrations is sometimes easier than speaking them. (I’ve also written notes, but typing is faster for me.) I can read them to make sure I’m saying what I mean and using “I” language rather than accusatory “you” language. Then my spouse has time to think before responding, to consider my feelings and either email back or talk to me about it. Usually after a few emails back and forth, we have come to an agreement or at least have acknowledged where each of us is coming from. I wouldn’t recommend texting for the same purpose, because we  don’t think long enough before sending texts, and they are written for speed more than for clarity of communication. Even if you want to have the discussion in person, it may help you to jot down your key points or concerns.

Whether you are writing or speaking about an area of conflict, remember that how you begin a fight determines whether it’s harmful or productive. Choose the right time and place, and plan your opening statement carefully.

Even if you are not at a crisis stage right now, think about how you would react in a crisis. Remain calm and try to keep the balance of power in your relationship on even terms (more on this in a later post).

Finally, remember that listening will get you much further than talking. With the right listening skills, you can learn to reach your spouse on any topic. Read 10 Great Tips to Get Through to Your Spouse for some insightful strategies to reach out to children, friends or marriage partners.

Have you ever worked through a conflict by writing down your concerns? Did it work well or fail? Do you have any other useful conflict management strategies to share?

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