The Magic Relationship Ratio: How to Stay Together

how to stay together

There’s a magic relationship ratio to stay together, and it was a huge surprise for me.

The relationship ratio tells us that it doesn’t matter whether couples fight a lot or not.
What truly matters, says John Gottman’s research, is that no matter the conflict style the couple has, they will stay together as long as the positive moments outnumber the negative ones by 5 to 1.

boxer woman argument

What The Magic Ratio Tells Us

Gottman’s research debunked a old myth:

That great couples fight less.

Indeed, in the past, and in large part also today, many believe that strong relationships have little fights in them. But research has dispelled that myth.

Indeed in Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, John Gottman explains that one type of successful couples, which he calls “volatile”, fight frequently and, often fight vehemently.

But here is the key: as long as frequently fighting couples kept a ratio of positive to negatives of 5:1 during their arguments they remained happy and stable together.

Why 5:1?

Why 5:1 and not, say, 1,5:1?

Wouldn’t more positive simply be enough to outweigh the negatives?

Well, no.

Negativity has more power to inflict damage than positivity has power to heal and bring us closer.

Relationships As Bank Account

Imagine your relationship as a bank account.

In a way it’s not a big stretch since most social relationships entail a form of exchange.

For every positive interaction and act of caring, you deposit one Dollar. Every negative interaction one is worth five Dollars.

To keep it positive, it’s not enough to be slightly kinder than you are mean. It means you need to be overwhelmingly kind to offset any meanness and contemptuous signs.

Examples of Negative Interactions

This should be obvious, but it’s worth repeating:

It’s impossible to keep a positive balance if negativity permeates our relationships.
The signs of negativity besieging our relationships are The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse:

When they get together and the negatives start outweighting the positive, the relationship can spiral into a vicious circle and lead to a break up.

And I added:

Meanness is a special case of a partner seeking to say the most hurtful thing they can say.
With that type of cruelty, you don’t go to minus five Dollars, but you might as well as go to minus five hundred Dollars.

Positivity

The examples of positive uinteractions during conflict are the following:

  • Interest
  • Asking questions
  • Kindness
  • Empathy
  • Affectionate

daily gifts to stay together

How to Stay Together

The analogy of the 1 dollar VS the 5 dollar is a good one because, Gottman says, it’s all indeed about small daily actions and behavior.

For example:

If they don’t come natural to you… Don’t worry. Start by implementing them intentionally and consistently.
Create a habit of daily, constant positive reinforcements.

Where to Start

How do you start making positive contributions to your relationship account?

Here is what Gottman suggets:

  1. Start by getting to your know partner well
  2. Then add a culture of appreciation, fondness and admiraiton
  3. And learn to read your partners’ bid for affections
  4. Learn how to turn towards those bids

If you get those four rights, chances are you will never have to worry about keeping a good relationship ever again.

SUMMARY

To stay together research has shown that the positives have to vastly outnumber the negatives.

That’s why it’s paramount that you build positive daily habits of doing many small nice things towards each other.

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