The Magic Relationship Ratio

    It’s no doubt that couples go through conflict on both a major and a minor scale. It comes in many forms: too frivolous with money, whose doing the dishes (or not doing them), not enough sex, spending too much time with friends, not communicating well, and the list goes on and on. The important thing in all of this is not that couples try to avoid conflict, because conflict is inevitable in every relationship (and it’s actually healthy and beneficial), but rather it’s how the couple chooses to work through the conflict together, that matters. There was a interesting study that found the "magic ratio" to seeing whether couples are happy and if they would make it.


Please note that the information on this study is just a recap and I did not come up with any of this information. To see my take on it scroll to the bottom.

The Study: 

    There was a study done by Dr. Gottman and Robert Levenson in the 1970’s to test out the difference between happy and unhappy couples. They took couples and put them into a room and told them that they had 15 minutes to try and solve a conflict within their own relationship. Then they observed the couples interacting via recording them. Later, they analyzed the tapes and followed up with the couples almost 10 years later. And by going through all of this they were able to formulate a ratio equation to predict which couples would make it and which couples wouldn’t.

The Results: 

    They had over a 90% success rate in their predictions of which couples would last. When couples go through life a conflict there needs to be a 5-1 ratio of positive to negative interactions to determine whether or not it’s a stable relationship according to this study. Dr. Gottman explains it like this, “When the masters of marriage are talking about something important, 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.”


What Is Considered A Negative Interaction:

  • Anger: while anger is certainly a negative reaction, they found it’s only damaging to a marriage if it’s expressed with criticism or contempt or if it’s defensive.
  • Emotionally dismissive or critical
  • Defensive
  • Bad Body language: such as eye rolling

What Is Considered A Positive Interaction:

  • Be interested
  • Express Affection
  • Demonstrate They Matter
  • Appreciation
  • Find Opportunities For Agreement
  • Empathize and Apologize
  • Accept Your Partner’s Perspective
  • Make Jokes: the joke must maintain respect and appreciation for your spouse

What I Take From This:

     I really enjoy reading studies and articles like this because it always makes me take a look at what I am doing in my relationship and if there is room for improvement. And let's be real, there is always room for improvement. Even if I only take away one small thing from this or any other article I read, I count it as a plus in my books. If I already knew the information, it just reaffirms the steps to keep going strong, and that's useful too.

     No relationship is perfect and there is no question that there will be conflict. I repeat, NO RELATIONSHIP IS PERFECT AND THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT THERE WILL BE CONFLICT. But like I said earlier it’s not the conflict you go through but how you go through it. If you really want to make your relationship work and you both love each other, then there is nothing that can stop you. Quite often I think that conflicts or difficult discussions in relationships are avoided because most people think it's easier to just not bring it up and so it's kept bottled up. This, in my experience, never works. It's much better to deal with the conflict head on, and sooner rather than later, so it doesn't snowball and get way out of hand. I admit, it's hard to maneuver through sometimes and it is definitely a constant learning process, but I think it's meant to be like that. No matter how hard the situation is, if you approach it correctly, you should be able to learn from it to help yourself and your relationship in the future.  But remember, make sure to keep the positive interactions high and the negative interactions low. Just think, every time you express a positive thought or compliment to your spouse you are strengthening your relationship, no matter how small it is. 

     What do you think? Do you agree? Do you not agree? Is it missing something? Let me know in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear what you think. And as always, if you like this post and like what we do on this blog, don’t hesitate to share it with the world. 

- Papa Bird