Here is a three part series on how to improve your relationship with three Gottman Method Couples Therapy ideas based on actual empirical research.
The Magic Number
... well, it's actually more of a ratio than a number. However, before you get scared away - it's really easy to understand and use! Before I drop this bit of knowledge on you, lets talk about where it comes from first.
When couples fight, they often get mean with each other: blaming, criticism, definitive statements that degrade or demean a partner are all common among failing or troubled couples. However, among those who succeed at the highest rates are a different set of qualities during an argument: respect, interest in their partner, humor, openness to understanding and influence, and acknowledgments of their partner's point of voice. These are things "the Masters" (as Gottman researchers call them) do on a regular basis - and things that all successful relationships should strive to do.
Yeah, but how do I do that when my partner is being an ass?
Good question, random person who is definitely not me. People are assholes sometimes, it's a fact of life. Even the nicest people can get annoyed and frustrated and at their wit's end. However, these brief moments are not their whole person. I said this to my wife one time, when we were arguing - and it honestly helped a lot, "What the hell are we arguing about? None of this matters. I won't care about this tomorrow, will you? What does it matter who took the dog out last." At first, I'll admit, didn't help much, but it did make us chuckle - which lead to a resolution in our argument. It's difficult, but you have to remember your sense of self and identity. You are not your partner. This interaction is only one of many in your relationship, and the things that are being said and done right now have long term consequences.
That being said, it is easier said than done. One of the ways to gather enough resilience and strength to remember these things, and work toward giving respect, interest, humor, etc. in an argument is to remember this number/ratio:
That's simple enough, right? The 5:1 ratio is 5 Compliments / Positive Things to 1 Negative thing. This means that if you constantly communicate with your partner in positive ways, you can build up enough 'positivity' in your relationship thoughts to be able to handle some negativity. This will also build trust in your relationship - a core component of the Sound Relational House, or the crux of the Gottman Method.
Now, we could spend time breaking down what each of these components look like, but honestly I am fearful that many of have stopped reading at this point - so I will leave you with this general piece of advice, which could help you increase your positive to negative ratio...
Remember your partner.
Simple enough, but hard to do in the moment. Simply remember the good things, and positive experiences you've had together - not the current negative one. Somethings that help many of my clients when their are in the middle of an argument is to remember the first time they met, or a happy memory of a time they shared together, etc. Something that reconnects them with their partner, and puts them in a better frame of reference when interacting with them.
Give it a try, it could be fun! Remember to do something/say something/be something nice for your partner today.
This page is a blog and repository of Dr. B - a sex therapist, educator, researcher, activist and speaker. Interested in all things sexual, social justice, LGBTQQIA+, and mental health.