Can you remember the last time your partner made a positive comment about you? Or do you feel regularly criticized by your partner instead? When negative interactions outweigh the positive ones in your relationship it may be hard to even recall the positive qualities in your partner. Although there are no quick fixes to ensure you will live a fairy tale relationship with only positive interactions with your partner, there is a strategy I will discuss in this post that can lead to a happier, more stable and connected relationship.
Dr. John Gottman, researcher and clinical psychologist, has studied couples for many years to find out what makes marriages successful or end in divorce. He found that expressing fondness, encouragement, and admiration toward one another could go a long way in maintaining a strong marital relationship. This may seem obvious, but in addition he found that happy and stable couples share more positive feelings and actions than negatives ones even when facing conflict. Happy and stable couples may continue to experience some negative interactions, yet the key is in the balance. According to Gottman, the magic ratio is 5 to 1. This means that for every 1 negative feeling or interaction between partners, there must be 5 positive feelings or interactions.
So if you feel that your relationship is not practicing the magic ratio, here are some things to help you start increasing positive feelings or interactions.
- Hold hands, hug, kiss
- Offer a back rub or foot rub
- Sit together while watching TV
- Say “I love you”
Show care and concern
- Buy your partner his or her favorite dessert while out on an errand
- Write a short email, send a card, or a thoughtful text message to your partner
- Write a note of encouragement
- Let your partner know it matters to you when they are concerned
- Example: “it sounds like you had a really rough day at work today.”
- Recall and share with your partner ways that they have been helpful or caring
- Thank him or her for what he or she does for you
- Compliment your partner
- Point out positive qualities you genuinely appreciate and admire
Listen to understand
- Be aware of your verbal and non verbal expressions when listening to your partner
- Example: nodding your head and maintaining eye contact
- Tell your partner how you understand his or her perspective
- Listen carefully and completely to your partner before commenting
- Avoid providing advice too quickly, listen completely first
- Acknowledge your partner’s opinion and let them know you think it is important
- Avoid name calling or being sarcastic towards your partner’s comments
- Be open minded with your partner even when you do not agree
- Be playful
- Engage in activities in where you both can laugh
- Joke around with each other, but avoid jokes that are sarcastic or hostile towards your partner
- Share memories with your partner about when you first met
- Share your feelings with your partner when you feel good or happy, especially when they have been brought up by your partner
Aim for the magic ratio and watch your relationship blossom!