For the past several months we have been talking about some of the pitfalls that can happen in romantic relationships. Perhaps you’ve been saying to yourself, “Sheesh! It’s enough of the downers, Lauren! Tell me what makes relationships successful already!”
Fortunately, John Gottman’s research illuminated a few key characteristics and interpersonal interactions that can highly influence the success and stability of relationships. We’re going to spend the next few months exploring some of them and I’ll be giving you tips to help you keep your most important relationships strong and healthy.
To get started, Dr. Gottman discovered that an important secret to relationship success is the presence of positivity during conflict discussions (and in everyday interactions). Specifically, the ratio of positivity to negativity in stable relationships is greater than or equal to 5:1.
What exactly does this 5:1 ratio mean and look like? It means that successful couples do a great deal to avoid having conflict discussions become negative to begin with. They spend a lot of time and energy injecting humor, good will, empathy, repair attempts, and expressing affection for every negative interaction.
It’s much easier to be forgiving of someones faults or mistakes if you generally like and have positive feelings for him/her. And having an abundance of positivity builds a strong foundation of friendship, trust, and intimacy that gets couples through difficult times.
To capture the baseline level of positivity in your relationship, try keeping track of the positive things you do for your partner every day for a week. Pay particular attention to the little things you do or say. You can also try this exercise with your partner and compare notes at the end of the week. Evaluate your attempts and their outcomes to see if you’re heading in the right direction or if you need to step up your game.
Stay tuned for next month’s article when I begin highlighting specific types of positive interactions that relationship masters use to maintain positivity, stability, and intimacy. Until then, enjoy practicing loving the people closest to you!