One of my favorite authors and experts on the subject of relationships is Dr. John Gottman. Dr. Gottman has written extensively on the subject of relationship longevity. His words are not just rhetoric, though. They are backed up by decades of research on couples. Dr. Gottman has studied extensively how individuals respond to conflict and why some couples stay together and other relationships dissolve. He has studied in a clinical laboratory to find out how our bodies physiologically respond to the stress of conflict, measuring blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate. Dr. Gottman hasn’t just studied relationships in a detached and clinical manner, however. He has come up with practical applications for how to heal and improve relationships.
All of Dr. Gottman’s research is well documented. His books are available for purchase either at your local bookstore or on line. The purpose of this post is not to be an advertisement for Dr. Gottman’s books. Although I would recommend them without hesitation to anyone who is wanting to improve their relationship, he does not need me to advertise for him. The purpose of this post is simply to comment on my personal respect for his research and his contribution to the field of marital therapy.
I follow the Gottman Institute on Facebook, and they frequently post content that is relevant and valuable. Just today I discovered the blog:
www.gottmanblog.com. I highly recommend this blog to anyone who is interested in couples counseling or to any couples who genuinely want to improve their relationship.
Dr. Gottman talks about how couples who stay together for the long haul, according to his research, have a ratio of 5 positive interactions for every one negative interaction.
This is powerful information. The significance of the ratio deserves comment. To me, it indicates that one negative interaction carries the emotional weight of at least 5 positive interactions. I have my own theories about this. As humans, we tend to ruminate about negative interactions and avoid negative emotions. When someone says or does something that makes us feel bad, we hold onto that event, replay it in our minds, talk about it with our friends….etc. Someone says or does something that makes us feel good….and we tend to minimize the good.
“You look great today” someone says, and we respond by thinking or saying, “No, this shirt is old…and I didn’t sleep well last night…and I’m having a bad hair day.” We don’t let the good settle in as readily as the bad. And so, it takes 5 good interactions to balance the one bad interaction that we immediately take to heart.
I’d like to envision a world in which good interactions are celebrated, and negative interactions are minimized. But for now, for whatever reasons, we humans do not function that way. If you would like to read more about Dr.John Gottman’s research, or follow his blog, you and your partner can only benefit from the accumulated wisdom of this leader in the field of couples therapy.
Wishing you an abundance of positive interactions and the wisdom to allow them to settle on you.