Friday, July 18, 2014

The Magic Life Ratio

Highly esteemed therapist, researcher, author and all around relationship guru John Gottman developed a predictor for relationship success which he calls the Magic Relationship Ratio.  He can predict if couples will stay together or not by measuring their ratio of positive interactions (or "good stuff") to negative interactions. If they can average a 5:1 positive to negative ratio then they are likely to last!

I took comfort in learning about this ratio back in grad school because if you will remember from my previous blog about my husband (Appreciating My Husbands P-ness), we were not the most compatible of couples - at least not on paper - and we fought quite a bit. But according to Gottman fighting isn't the problem, an out of whack ratio is the problem.  So couples who fight can be very happy as long as they have five times more positive interactions to balance it out. Phew!

5 good for every 1 bad. The Magic Relationship Ratio.

Recently I sat down at my computer to write what I realized after a few minutes was yet another rant about a negative interaction that had occurred while out in public with Julia - as I was working myself up over reliving my frustrating encounter with an ignorant person, I caught myself and wondered, "Why is this the story am I writing?  Why am I giving this interaction attention but not the other really awesome thing that happened today while we were out in public? Why does the one negative feel so much bigger than the one positive?"

The ratio.

Could Gottman's brilliant hypothesis about a successful and stable relationship also be applicable to life in general?

Is there perhaps a Magic Life Ratio?  And if so was mine out of whack?

Had the ratio of positives to negatives between myself and life slipped to below 5:1 without me recognizing it? Were the negatives piling on faster than my sweet little positives could manage?

My ratio needed some attention ASAP - but what does that mean? How can this help me rather than make me feel worse? What do I do now?

Well, to be clear - the ratio is not to make us feel like victims or justify acting like victims.  We should not sit back in relationships OR life and say to ourselves, "Well, three crummy things happened to me this morning so I guess my life stinks until 15 good things magically occur."  Ummm, no.   You may feel like that in certain moments (I know I have) but behaving in that way will not help your case.

It's not about being a victim of what happens to you. It's about being aware of this concept and this human need so you can be proactive.

Recognizing I was in a life ratio deficit actually empowered me to do something about it. I reached out to the people in my life who I knew would help get me back in balance. And it worked!  I needed positives, I generated positives, my ratio was restored and no one got punched. Success!

(By the way, positives don't have to come solely from other people - we can add to our positive column in a ton of different ways, what makes you feel better? Do that.)

So two things I guess about this whole Magic Life Ratio idea:

One, being aware of and proactive about our own ratio can help make life less painful.

And two, we are all contributing to someone else's ratio in one way or another.  We are either building up the positives or draining them down.

That makes us very powerful.
Everything we do matters.

How then, shall we contribute?