Ah love! It’s at the very core of our being. It’s who we are at the purest and most basic level of our humanness and is the foundation of a romantic relationship. Yet as anyone who has been in a relationship knows, it takes more than love for it to endure and thrive. To go through the joys, trials, and tribulations of a relationship and come out still bonded in your love for one another requires knowledge and skills that you may not have learned along the way.
Though my present work as an author, shamanic healer, and spiritual teacher has a different focus, I’ve been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Psychotherapist since 1975 and had a very successful private practice until I transitioned to my present work. In addition to my own experiences in relationships (the good, bad, and the ugly!), I’ve read several books and attended several workshops that added to my skills and knowledge, both personally and professionally.
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Although all these contributed something to my understanding, the most sensible guidelines I found came out of the University of Washington, from a researcher named Dr. John Gottman. His approach was not just intellectual or philosophical, but his conclusions were based on his long-term research with a wide range of ordinary couples. In his “love lab” he studied partners heart rates, facial expressions, and how they interacted with each another.
One of the main factors in the couples’ interactions with one another was the ratio of positive moments to negative moments. Gottman and his researchers found that when the ratio of positive to negative moments was consistently 5 to 1 or greater (some couples were as high as 30 to 1), even while discussing problems, it indicated a strong marriage that would very likely endure. If the ratio dropped to 1 to 1 or less, they were able to predict with an astounding 90% accuracy that these couples would not be together after three years! He also noted that even when the positive moments greatly surpassed the negative, the “1” in the ratio was just as important.
Although these findings were highly significant, Gottman concluded that there were other important ingredients that supported a strong foundation for the marital relationship. These principles can be useful for any two people, married or not, trying to navigate the waters of their relationship. Here are some of those principles gleaned from his years of research that helps keep vitality and meaning in your relationship.
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Keep high standards—The most successful couples refused to accept hurtful behavior from one another right from the beginning and as a result were generally happier.
Seek help early—The average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems! Since half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years, the sooner you get help the more likely those problems can be resolved.