Psychologists have discovered that how an engaged man and woman interact with each other can predict with 81-87% accuracy whether or not their marriage will last.
One significant pattern of interactions between engaged couples that predicts the likelihood of their relationships surviving is the balance of positive and negative interactions. Positive interactions can repair damage done by negative interactions but negative interactions have a stronger impact than positive interactions.
Couples who are stable and happy mostly engage in positive v. negative interactions in a ratio of 5:1. These couple are much less likely to break up.
So the message is clear: if you want your relationship to last you must engage in lots more positive interactions than negative ones.
What are positive interactions? This is where appreciation and acknowledgement are regularly expressed. On the other hand negative comments are complaints, put downs, nagging etc. Where there are five times more positives than negatives, the likelihood of a successful and satisfying relationship is greatly enhanced. If on the other hand, the negatives outweigh the positives by 1:5 the relationship will most likely fail, or if it does survive, will probably prove to be highly unsatisfying.
It’s useful then to estimate what you think your ratio is, and what you think your partner’s ratio is. This can be especially revealing to both of you – and often a bit of a shock.
What can be even more challenging is the shock when you start paying attention to your own way of interacting and tracking it. Even if this is confronting, by simply being aware and trying to practice more positive exchanges with your significant other, you can bring your ratio up to the desired 5:1. Within a few days both of you will feel a marked improvement in your relationship.
There’s no magic here! People who actively work on improving their interaction ratio realize that they are noticing things that they appreciate about the other person and showing that they do so. Not only that, but they stop focusing on the disappointments and what they are NOT getting. It stands to reason that resentments then reduce and positive feelings increase. Your partner experiences this, the good will between you increases, and things get better and better.
Make no mistake, this work isn’t for cissies! If you’ve been communicating in a certain way for most of your relationship, it won’t be easy to change and it certainly won’t be easy to maintain the new desirable positive/negative ratio.
If people feel they have been put down or unheard for a long time, they tend to build a barrier around their hearts to shield themselves against hurts and disappointments. If they don’t get the response they want as soon as they would like, or it doesn’t last, it can take quite a significant amount of time to melt that protective shield enough to believe that it’s worth it to keep trying to restore balance and harmony within a relationship.
If there is a lack of immediate response, the initiator will give up too soon and the situation will actually be made worse because with a lack of success, motivation to continue to work at the relationship is diminished. The unfortunate result then is that resentments increase and the aimed for ratio plummets, possibly leading to the relationship breaking down.
This is why it’s such a good idea to attend pre-marriage education programs! Here you can learn how to support each other to communicate honestly but compassionately with each other. This is the foundation that is essential for any successful and fulfilling marriage.