So simple, but still so true.
Relationships are challenging, to say the least. Two people with two separate mindsets and ways of communicating having to try to find a way to connect? Sounds difficult to me.
In his column, Tools for an Intentional Marriage, therapist and writer Zach Brittle reveals the one common trait that can be found among the many different kinds of happy marriages: positivity. And if you want a happy marriage, there really isn't a secret formula — just be positive.
During his three decades of researching how to make relationships stronger, Dr. John Gottman discovered that all happy couples had an abundance of positive sentiment at a ratio about 5:1. For every one negative in a relationship, there were five positives.
As long as there are five times as many positive interactions between partners as there are negative, the relationship is likely to be stable, healthy, and happy. It's based on this magic ratio that Dr. Gottman is able to predict divorce.
Unfortunately, extremely unhappy couples tend to have more negative than positive interactions. The bottom line is that every relationship has some negativity, but it's positivity that strengthens the bond between two people.
Brittle illustrates the magic ratio in this way: If you look at every positive interaction between you and your significant other as being worth a penny, and every negative interaction as being worth a nickel, in order to keep your relationship happy and stable, it's crucial that you put in five pennies for every nickel taken out. And it's better than OK to put way more pennies in than nickels.
"I always say, nobody cares about losing a nickel if they have $100 in the bank. But if you only have 10 cents, it's a lot harder to stay net positive," Brittle writes. "The key is to keep your balance of pennies high so that a nickel lost isn't felt as much."
Every couple is vulnerable in their own way, but Bittle says that "vulnerability is mitigated by a strong leaning toward positive engagement." Positivity can help protect and strengthen your relationship.
"There is no substitute for kindness, gratitude, affection, and regard," says Brittle. "You cannot underestimate the power of positive sentiment as a sustaining factor in happiness and stability for couples."
So be nice as often and as much as you can. Your partner will thank you.