Marriage Hack: Mastering Gottman’s Magic Ratio

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Marriage Expert John Gottman is able to predict divorce with 95% accuracy with his magic ratio of 5:1 positive to negative interactions. Sounds like we should  learn how to cultivate more positive interactions.

Our theme for the month is marriage hacks- helpful tips and tools for your marriage.  Recent posts:


This hack comes from John Gottman, king of marriage research.  Astonishingly and against all odds in social science, Gottman is able to predict divorce with 95% accuracy.  That does not happen in social science.

He observes a couple for an hour, measures all sorts of things and based on those codings, is able to predict whether or not that couple will be divorced in 15 years.  With 95% accuracy.

Say what?!

What is he looking for in this hour of observation?  Well a lot of things actually, but a key component is the ratio of negative interactions to positive ones.  He found that in relationships where positive interactions (touching, smiling, laughing, complimenting, etc) outweigh negative interactions by a ratio of 5:1 or more, those relationships are extremely stable.

In relationships where the ratio is less than that, problems arise and those relationships are likely to end in divorce.

So, with this in mind, the marriage hack for today is CULTIVATE POSITIVE INTERACTIONS WITH YOUR SPOUSE!!!

Marriage Expert John Gottman is able to predict divorce with 95% accuracy with his magic ratio of 5:1 positive to negative interactions. Click through to learn how to cultivate more positive interactions.

As I’ve been thinking about the interactions I have with Rich, I’ve come to realize that we have slightly different definitions of “positive” and “negative” interactions.  For instance, when we are chatting during a date night or some time when we are in bonding mode and its my turn to pick a topic of conversation, I almost always go to some type of scheduling topic- an event we have coming up, a decision we have to make, something going on with the kids, etc.  It’s just how my mind works.

It took me a while to understand why Rich would recoil from these topics- to him talking about to-do lists and schedules does not qualify as a positive interaction as it does for me.  To him, it is neutral at best and stressful and overwhelming at worst.

Which is kind of a bummer because SO much of our daily interactions are scheduling related.  Particularly when we are both busy.

For instance, I’m actually holding my phone right now, scanning through mine and Rich’s text messages recently. Here are a few:

  • “What’s your eta?”
  • “Any memory if the dishwasher got turned on last night?”
  • “Double checking you’ll be home by 5:20 so I can go to parent teacher conference?”
  • “Don’t forget to pick up that package today”
  • “Running late.”
  • “Do we have tomatoes or should I buy some?”

Now obviously these texts aren’t mean or bad, but since they constitute so much of our daily interactions, I could definitely put in more effort to push them further into the positive interaction camp.  Particularly since, as I mention, Rich doesn’t like scheduling talk as much as I do. ( Mmmmmm scheduling talk, love it.)

Time to sprinkle a little more love into those texts!

Anyway, so the marriage hack for this week is to be the bearer of good news to your spouse.  Make those texts a little more loving or funny or sweet or interesting or whatever your spouse likes.

Consciously curate positive interactions with your spouse this week- whatever that means to them.

Let me know how it goes!

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One thought on “Marriage Hack: Mastering Gottman’s Magic Ratio

  1. I just found this site/blog and I absolutely love it! I feel like all the topics are right on cue with our marriage and our struggles. I look forward to reading all your tips and tools! Thank!!

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