The First Few Years Of Marriage

Day 2 of 5 • This day’s reading


The Magic Ratio

Let’s take a look at Gottman’s research on how important it is to be positive in your marriage, as well as the idea of developing frequent, small positive acts toward your spouse. His “magic ratio” is five to one in terms of the balance of positive to negative interactions. Gottman found that marriages are significantly more likely to succeed when a couple’s interactions are closer to the five-to-one ratio of positive versus negative (in other words, five positive interactions for every one negative interaction). According to Gottman, couples with more negative interactions than positive ones are typically headed for divorce.

So imagine for a moment that we’ve followed you and your spouse around with a video camera over the past several weeks. Every single conversation—including inflection (tone) and nonverbal communication (smiles, winks, smirks, eye rolls, gasps, looks of disgust, etc.)—has been recorded and transcribed into written form. The words and nonverbal actions are then sliced and diced into two clear-cut categories: positive and negative. Now we’re going to post the results on the wall and closely evaluate your positive-to-negative ratio. How do you think you’d do? Would you be five-to-one positive or two-to-three negative or maybe even at one-to-one?

To help you move toward a five-to-one marriage, we recommend that you immediately begin to practice three specific actions.