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The Magic 5:1 Ratio

The Magic 5:1 Ratio

Five to one.  This magic ratio is known to every well trained Gottman Couples Counselor out there and beyond.  It’s what the masters of relationship do and the disasters don’t do.  It is one of the reasons the masters stay happily married and the disasters don’t.  So what is it?

In the research apartment lab that some would equate to the Big Brother House, researchers quietly watched and coded all interactions between couples for decades.  Then, in other research studies, observers even coded the interactions in the couples' homes, and here is what they found about this magic ratio.

If you were to take a 15 minute segment of a conflict between a husband and wife, the group we call the masters of relationship had a five to one ratio of positive to negative in their interaction with each other during the disagreement!  In normal daily interactions that did not involve conflict, that ratio was 20:1! 

So to further clarify how this has been coded for years, the researchers looked at all the positive traits displayed in the discussion.  Things such as showing interest in what their partner had to say, asking questions to further understand, being excited about their partner’s ideas and solutions, showing affection, interjecting humor, empathy, and understanding.  They also looked at all the negative traits displayed such as hostility, showing disappointment, hurt feelings, sadness, anxiety, tenseness, and evidence of depressed states.  They then divided the number of seconds spent in positive states by the number of seconds spent in the negative states and found that even in times of conflict, the masters, spent five times as much time praising and showing affection and interest to their partners as they did trying to prove themselves right.  

Another way to look at this without a stop watch is that for every negative thing that is said during a conflict, there are at least five positive things said about their partner.  Do you know any couples that display these traits?

As referenced above, when not in conflict, the masters had a ration 20 times as much positive to negative, but what about the disasters?  The disasters showed a ratio of 0.8 to 1; slightly more negative then positive.  This 0.8:1 ratio was displayed not only in conflict, but when just sitting around living their life.  A couples assessment will show this couple to be in “Negative Sentiment Override” on the Sound Relationship House model, Level 4.  This will be discussed in a later article.

If you and your spouse are having trouble managing conflict, there is hope.  Using clinically proven techniques, I can teach you and your partner ways to communicate on a far deeper level than you perhaps ever thought possible.  Don't wait until it's too late.  Call me at 469-225-9040, or contact us online for a free consultation.