Secret to a happy marriage: The 5 to 1 ratio

Relationships don't have to be built on grand gestures, couples should simply be having more positive interactions than negative ones. Photo / Getty
Relationships don't have to be built on grand gestures, couples should simply be having more positive interactions than negative ones. Photo / Getty

If you were to review your current relationship, when would you say you were the happiest?

Was it back in the early days when you first met and were swept up in a haze of excitement and first dates? That "honeymoon period" where you hung on each other's every word and your time spent together was predominantly positive.

And if you were to consider your relationship now, how often do those positive moments occur compared to the negative ones?

According to marriage expert John Gottman, there is an exact ratio of positive to negative interactions between a couple that signals a happy, successful relationship.

The magic ratio: 5 to 1, meaning stable, happy couples will experience five positive interactions for every negative one.

Gottman, who has studied the habits of healthy couples, has also identified a ratio of positive to negative interactions between divorced couples, finding just 0.8 happy encounters existed for every unhappy one.

Gottman's findings are backed by numerous other studies which show happiness in a marriage increases in the first two years but will likely return to the levels experienced pre-marriage.

The reason for this? Failure to uphold the 5 to 1 ratio. Easier said than done, so how does a couple work to maintain this magic balance?

Happiness expert and speaker Dr Bruce Wells has shared five tips with news.com.au to assist in cultivating positive interactions on a daily basis.

1. Show them affection

Wells recommends employing a variety of ways to show your affection to your partner. Small gestures such as holding hands and spontaneous kisses make the greatest contribution.

Actions speak louder than words when it comes to showing your partner you love and care for them.

2. Spend quality time together

Experts say this is one of the key aspects of a successful marriage, and the happiest couples spend more than five hours a week simply talking and enjoying each others company.

Each day, set aside at least 15 minutes for a meaningful conversation to take place, where you and your partner talk about goals, feelings and challenges, says Wells.

This doesn't need to be a confined to a rigid timeslot at home, you can talk while walking, meet up for a drink, or chat over a meal.

Whether it's going for a walk or chatting over lunch, experts say couples should set aside 15 minutes each day to spend uninterrupted time together. Photo  / Getty
Whether it's going for a walk or chatting over lunch, experts say couples should set aside 15 minutes each day to spend uninterrupted time together. Photo / Getty

3. Show your appreciation and gratitude

Showing your partner you appreciate them is one of the easiest ways to boost your relationship, yet it's one of the first things to fall by the wayside.

"When couples stop expressing gratitude towards their partners, they start taking each other for granted," says Wells.

It's as simple as lettign your partner know how much you appreciated the meal they prepared, how you were grateful when they fixed the loose door handle in the laundry, or how much you valued their attempts to cheer you up when you missed out on a job promotion.

But its not just talk. Show your gratitude as well with simple gestures like cooking a meal for your partner when you know they are tired, or leaving a love note for them on the kitchen bench.

4. Celebrate good news and show admiration

A sign of a strong relationship is when couples are enthusiastic about each other's good news.

In fact, how we respond to our partner's good news is more important for the longevity of our relationship than how we react to their bad news, says Wells.

Show your interest in your partner's news by listening attentively, asking questions and showing admiration. When partners celebrate each other's triumphs, the relationship receives a boost in trust and intimacy.

It also contributes to what has been called the Michelangelo Effect, where partners bring out the best in each other, which in turn helps them to become more of their ideal selves.

5. Manage conflict nicely

While all couples have disagreements, what differentiates happy relationships from unhappy ones is how partners fight, rather than how often.

Gottman's research shows unhappy couples criticise by attacking their partner's personality, stoop to eye rolling and sarcasm during a conflict, and become defensive and deny any responsibility for the situation.

Happy couples tend to fight differently. They try to diffuse tension by showing humour and expressing affection, they concede on certain points, and validate their partner's concerns by saying things like "I can see you're upset with me because..."

-nzherald.co.nz

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