If you were to rate your relationship right now where would you put it on a scale of 1-10? Do you fight regularly or are you always mad at your partner for something or disappointed in their behavior? What if there was a way to turn it around?
If you haven’t heard of John Gottman, then let me tell you a little about him. John is considered a pioneer in the study of relationships, and his research has provided an immense amount of insight into what makes a couple stay together.
Gottman’s initial research in the 1970’s found that they could predict whether a couple would divorce with an overage of over ninety percent accuracy. There are a few simple rules you need to live by if you want your relationship to not only last but be happy and fulfilling.
Here are a few very interesting easy to read articles on the topic:
In short, Gottman asserts that we all have an emotional relationship bank. Your partner can make deposits into that bank or on the flip side they can make withdrawals. Too many withdrawals will empty your bank, and you will be left feeling alone and unfulfilled. If you get enough deposits in your relationship account, then you’re happy.
Simple, enough, right? Apparently not, or everyone would do it.
But, if you want to make your marriage and relationship last then these are the two rules you need to live by:
Rule #1: The 5-1 Ratio
Apparently, there is a magic number you need to remember and it’s 5 to 1. When you are involved in a conflict with your partner you need to have five positive interactions with every negative one.
Unhappy tend to engage in fewer positive interactions to compensate for escalating negativity which is a predictor of divorce.
What is a negative interaction? Negative interactions include being defensive, emotionally dismissive or critical and using closed off or negative body language (crossing arms, rolling eyes).
Negativity is so awful in a relationship that it takes five positive interactions to overcome that one bad one. The five to one ratio is all about handling every moment with your partner to empathize, understand, value and reinforce rather than break down, invalidate, negate or diminish.
Everyone fights, but healthy relationships find a way to see what they agree upon rather than focusing on what they disagree on.
Never tell your partner they are stupid for feeling the way they feel. You may not understand the way they feel, but it doesn’t make them stupid. Find ways to interact positively more often than not.
Rule #2: Bids:
The second simple rule to fill up the bank account are what Gottman calls “bids.” Every time you attempt to connect with your partner, it is a “bid.” These connections occur each time your partner seeks attention, affection, affirmation or any positive emotional connection with you and vice versa.
If you miss a “bid”, you are turning away from your partner. Too many missed bids, and your emotional bank account depletes, and the relationship falls apart. Gottman found that in the relationships that lasted partners met emotional bids eighty-six percent of the time.
Life is made up of little moments and if you miss or ignore a bid from your partner to connect you are taking moments out of an account that is not unlimited.
Accepting a bid from your partner means you are turning towards them and you are making a deposit in their account. When you turn towards your partner, it means:
“I hear you.”
“I support you.”
“I’m interested in what you have to say.”
“I’d like to help if I can.”
Those are two seemingly simple rules to make a relationship successful. Is your account balanced or unbalanced? Keep a journal for a week and note how many positive interactions (no matter how small) you have. The more you focus on the positive, the happier you will be. What you focus on you create. Focus on positive interactions and focus on turning towards your partner instead of turning away. Do it for a week and see if you notice any difference. I’m betting you will.