Is your relationship headed for disaster?
John Gottman, PhD, is a leading psychologist in the area of marriage and relationships. Over the years, he has researched countless couples and has been able to predict with surprising accuracy which relationships survive and which fail.
I know you are busy and may not have time to read his books, so I want to give you a little summary of the red flags that he’s found so that you can see if you are dealing with them in your relationship. By the way – if you do have time, I highly recommend his book “The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work” – it’s a quick and easy read and offers some great information.
First off, if you are experiencing any of these ‘symptoms’ of a relationship headed toward disaster, fear not. You have time to reverse your path. Awareness is key – so talk to your partner about your concerns and see if you can do something about it.
The Warning Signs
1.) Negativity significantly outweighs positivity
Let’s face it – all couples, happy and otherwise, have negative feelings in their relationships. There is a place in every relationship for anger, hurt and disgust. After all, we’re only human and we all screw up and do things that piss each other off. What counts is how much negativity there is in relation to positivity. The goal is to keep the scale in favor of how positive we can be.
Gottman and his colleagues found that in stable relationships, the ratio of positive to negative during conflict is 5:1, which means there is 5 times as much positive interactions than negative ones in stable couples when they are in conflict. That ratio in couples who get divorced is much less – 0.8:1 or less, so there is greater negativity than positivity in similar conflicts.
What this means is that couples in happy relationships tend to be much more forgiving and understanding of each other, even during conflict, significantly moreso than those couples headed for break-up. This may be obvious, but I think the fact that Dr. Gottman is able to pin down exactly how much negativity a relationship can tolerate before heading into the danger zone is pretty amazing – and helpful.
The take home message is to keep your positivity 5X or greater than your negativity when you are arguing with your partner. This helps keep your relationship in the safe zone. In other words – when you are arguing with your partner, instead of telling him how stupid he is, try to throw in an “I can see what you’re saying,” or, “ok, that makes sense.” If you share a sense of humor, hopefully you can be more playful with each other and maybe joke with her about the issue (as long as it’s not condescending or only funny to you). Hopefully the favor will be returned by your partner and you’ll both survive these conflicts with much more ease and keep your relationship out of the danger zone.
This information may not save your relationship or may not even be possible to implement without more help if you are deep into a hostile pattern with each other, but I think it’s interesting and can be useful.
2.) “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalpyse”