The Magic Relationship Ratio, According to Science

 / 

The Magic Relationship Ratio, According to Science

Let’s explore the magic relationship ratio- Backed by Science.

Whether it’s about not having enough sex, the dirty laundry, or spending too much money, conflict is inevitable in every marriage.

To understand the difference between happy and unhappy couples, Dr. Gottman and Robert Levenson began doing longitudinal studies of couples in the 1970s.

They asked couples to solve a conflict in their relationship in 15 minutes, then sat back and watched. After carefully reviewing the tapes and following up with them nine years later, they were able to predict which couples would stay together and which would divorce with over 90% accuracy.

Their discovery was simple. The difference between happy and unhappy couples is the balance between positive and negative interactions during the conflict. There is a very specific ratio that makes love last.

That “magic ratio” is 5 to 1. This means that for every negative interaction during the conflict, a stable and happy marriage has five (or more) positive interactions.

“When the masters of marriage are talking about something important,” Dr. Gottman says, “they may be arguing, but they are also laughing and teasing and there are signs of affection because they have made emotional connections.”

On the other hand, unhappy couples tend to engage in fewer positive interactions to compensate for their escalating negativity.

If the positive-to-negative ratio during conflict is 1-to-1 or less, that’s unhealthy and indicates a couple teetering on the edge of divorce.

So what’s considered a negative interaction?

The One Negative Interaction

Examples of negative interactions include another predictor of divorce, The Four Horsemen, as well as feelings of loneliness and isolation.

While anger is certainly a negative interaction and a natural reaction to conflict, it isn’t necessarily damaging to a marriage. Dr. Gottman explains in Why Marriages Succeed or Fail that “anger only has negative effects in marriage if it is expressed along with criticism or contempt, or if it is defensive.”

Negative interactions during conflict include being emotionally dismissive or critical or becoming defensive. Body language such as eye-rolling can be a powerful negative interaction, and it is important to remember that negativity holds a great deal of emotional power, which is why it takes five positive interactions to overcome anyone negative interaction.

And these negative interactions happen in healthy marriages, too, but they are quickly repaired and replaced with validation and empathy.

Read How Negative Interpretations Hurts Relationships: 3 Things You Can Do

The Five Positive Interactions

Couples who flourish engage in conflict differently than those who eventually break up. Not only do the Masters of marriage start conflict more gently, but they also make repairs in both minor and major ways that highlight the positivity in their relationship.

Below is a list of interactions that stable couples regularly use to maintain positivity and closeness.

1. Be Interested

When your partner complains about something, do you listen? Are you curious about why he or she is so mad?

Displaying interest includes asking open-ended questions, as well as more subtle signals such as nods, making eye contact, and timely “uh-huh” that show how closely you are listening.

2. Express Affection

Do you hold hands with your partner, offer a romantic kiss, or embrace your partner when greeting them at the end of the day?

Expressions of affection can happen in small ways both within and outside of conflict.

Within conflict, displays of physical and verbal affection reduce stress. If you’re having a difficult conversation and your partner takes your hand and says, “Gosh, this is hard to talk about.

I really love you and I know we can figure this out together,” you will likely feel better because their display of affection is bound to reduce tension and bring you closer together.

3. Demonstrate They Matter

Our motto for making a marriage last is “small things often.” The small acts that demonstrate you care are powerful ways to enhance the positivity in your marriage.

Bringing up something that is important to your partner, even when you disagree, demonstrates that you are putting their interests on par with yours and shows your partner that you care about them. And how you treat each other outside of conflict influences how well you’ll handle your inevitable disagreements.

For example, if your partner is having a bad day and you stop to pick up dinner on the way home, you’re showing him that he is on your mind.

Those small gestures accumulate over time and will provide a buffer of positivity in your marriage so that when you do enter a conflict, it will be easier to engage in positive interactions that outweigh the negative.

4. Intentional Appreciation

How you think about your partner influences how you treat them. By focusing on the positives of your marriage such as the good moments from your past and your partner’s admirable traits, you put positive energy into your relationship.

Negativity is bound to enter your thoughts, especially during conflict. Intentionally focusing on the positive will counterbalance any of the moments when you struggle to find something good about your partner.Now turn your thoughts into action: every time you express your positive thinking and give your partner a verbal compliment, no matter how small, you are strengthening your marriage.

5. Find Opportunities for Agreement

When couples fight, they focus on the negative parts of the conflict and miss the opportunities for what they agree on.

When you seek opportunities for agreement and express yourself accordingly, you are showing that you see your spouse’s viewpoint as valid and that you care about them.

An alliance in conflict, even minor, can fundamentally shift how couples fight.

6. Empathize and Apologize

Empathy is one of the deepest forms of human connection. When you empathize with your spouse, you show that you understand and feel what your partner is feeling, even if you express empathy non-verbally through a facial expression or a physical gesture. Saying things like, “It makes sense to me that you feel…” will help your partner see that you are on their team.Empathy is a profound connecting skill that all romantic partners can and should improve, and there is no limit to the amount of empathy you can express.

And, if your partner is upset with something you said or did, simply apologize. If you can find a moment during the conflict to say “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. That makes me sad,” you will provide a positive and empathetic interaction that reinforces your bond.

Read 5 Signs You’ve Got A Spiritually Healthy Relationship

7. Accept Your Partner’s Perspective

An approach that drastically improves conflict is understanding that each of your perspectives is valid, even if they are opposed to each other.

While you may not agree with your partner’s perspective, letting them know that their perspective makes sense will show them that you respect them.

One of the best ways to do this is to summarize your spouse’s experience during a conflict, even if you disagree. Remember that validation doesn’t mean agreement, but it does signal respect.

Read 50 Things We All Deserve In A Relationship

8. Make Jokes

Playful teasing, silliness, and finding moments to laugh together can ease tension in a heated conflict. Most couples have inside jokes they only share with each other. This highlights the exclusivity a couple has.

However, a word of caution: remember to find a way to joke around that maintains respect and appreciation for your spouse and that serves to bring you both closer together.

Test Your Ratio

Is your relationship unbalanced? Observe how you and your partner interact. For every negative interaction that happens, are there more positive interactions?

If not, take it upon yourself to create more positive interactions in your relationship, and also try to notice the small moments of positivity that currently exist there, and that you may have been missing.

Keep a journal for one week that notes the positive interactions, however small, in your marriage.

As Dr. Gottman’s research has revealed, the more positive actions and feelings you can create in your marriage, the happier and more stable your marriage will be.

This article was originally published on The Gottman Relationship Blog.

Want to improve your marriage in 60 seconds or less? Over 40 years of research with thousands of couples has proven a simple fact: small things often can create big changes over time. Got a minute? Sign up here.


The Magic Relationship Ratio, According to Science

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply



Up Next

15+ Quotes From “Bridgerton” That Depict Obsessive Yearning

Best Bridgerton Quotes About Love And Romance

If you like romances and things from the Regency era, these Bridgerton quotes show how obsession can be a form of longing. This Netflix series features several love stories in which the characters experience intense desire and emotions.

Through eloquent dialogues and passionate interactions, “Bridgerton” powerfully reveals the aspirations that motivate its characters.

The series effectively frames the relationship between Daphne and Simon as an embodiment of smouldering attraction while at the same time conveying other major figures’ secretly yearning for each other.

Here are some Bridgerton quotes about love that perfectly sum up obsessive yearning.<



Up Next

TikTok’s Ultimate Couples Psychometrics Test: Which Iconic Pair Are You and Your Partner?

Couples Psychometrics Test: Fun Results Of Fictional Couples

Do you want to explore your relationship dynamics in a fun and insightful way? Take this Couples Psychometrics Test, the newest sensation making waves on social media, particularly TikTok!

Forget zodiac signs and typical personality quizzes; this one goes further to study your compatibility with your partner’s and give a famous fictional couple from TV shows or movies as your match.

This is a test attempts to find the perfect on-screen duo for you. It checks out our personalities, styles of communication and other oddities that make us real-life couples.

For those of you who are just wondering about which legendary pair represents your love story in th



Up Next

10 Signs You Are A Rebound And Nothing More

Signs You Are A Rebound And Nothing More

The dating world can sometimes feel like you are on a wild roller coaster ride of emotions, full of exhilarating highs and heart breaking lows. And you might find yourself unknowingly become someone’s rebound. But how do you gauge that? What are the signs you are a rebound, and nothing more?

Being someone’s rebound means being an emotional pit stop for them; it’s like they are taking a short break where they are seeking temporary solace before moving on for good. It’s not a good place to be in, honestly.

Today, we are talking to talk about all those glaring signs you are a rebound, so that it’s easier for you to decide if you want to remain one, or let go and wait for someone who gives you the love and respect you deserve.



Up Next

What Are Yellow Flags In A Relationship? Is Your Relationship Sending Warning Signals?

Identifying Yellow Flags In A Relationship and How To Deal

Have you ever felt a tinge of uncertainty in your romantic relationship? A flickering doubt, a slight unease? Relationships are complex, and it’s normal for them to have ups and downs. However, it’s crucial to pay attention to the subtle yellow flags in a relationship that may indicate potential issues down the road. 

These early warning signs can offer insights into the health and sustainability of a relationship. Let us explore what does a yellow flag mean, how to identify them, and most importantly, how to deal with yellow flags to foster a stronger and healthier connection.

What Does a Yellow Flag Mean in a Relationship?

A yellow flag in a relationship is a cautionary sign that som



Up Next

Mirroring In Relationships: How It Shapes Romance

Mirroring In A Relationship: Examples Of Love And Support

Do you ever feel that you could almost read your partner’s mind, or have you ever experienced the baffling feeling of finishing each other’s sentences? If yes, you must have encountered a mysterious human behavior called mirroring in a relationship.

So, What Is Mirroring Behavior In Relationships?

Mirroring behavior psychology is an unintentional process in which people imitate one another’s actions, gestures, and emotions.



Up Next

8 Questions To Ask Yourself If You Want To Avoid Marrying The Wrong Person

Marrying The Wrong Person? Important Questions To Ask

Picture this: you’re standing at the altar, surrounded by beaming friends and family, moments away from saying “I do” to the person who you thought was your soulmate and the love of your life. But deep down, you can’t ignore the nagging feeling that something doesn’t feel right. Could it be possible that you’re marrying the wrong person?

The fear of marrying the wrong person lingers in the hearts of many, and it’s a fear worth exploring, because this is your life we are talking about. In this article, we’ll dive into eight essential questions that you should ask yourself before taking that leap into forever.

So, grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and let’s unravel how to avoid marrying the wrong person.



Up Next

63 Conversation Starters For Deep Dialogues With Your Partner

Conversation Starters For Deep Dialogues With Your Partner

Why conversation starters? Over time conversations with your partner might begin to feel shallow and focused more on the daily grind than topics that actually matter. This is normal. It’s probably not a dangerous red flag that your relationship is about to end, but it is likely unsatisfying and monotonous.

It’s quite easy to reignite the spark with your partner by enjoying deeper and more meaningful conversations just by becoming more intentional in carving out time to talk.

We all know that communication is key to a healthy relationship, but let’s be honest; talking about what’s for dinner or whose turn it is to walk the dog just won’t cut it.

If you’re yearning for a deeper connection, it’s worth dedicating ten to fifteen minutes a day to one of the most important people in your life.