This romance hack tells you if your relationship is marriage material

By Annabelle Warwick July 21, 2016

Not 100% sure about your relationship – be honest, have you made a pros and cons list? Dr. John Gottman's 5:1 rule will tell you if it’s down the aisle or breakup time

On paper, your partner meets your checklist, hell they blow your checklist out of the water! But these days there are a few niggling “issues” that just won’t go away and you’re only about 85 per cent sure. True love has to be at least 95 per cent perfect, right?

Relationships expert of 40 years, psychologist John Gottman, Ph.D. says no, a great relationship does not have to be perfect. The magic ratio is 5 to 1. That’s five positive interactions for every one negative interaction or conflict.

Yes, you can argue until the cows come home as long as you have five good times for every bad.

That means your relationship only has to be 80 per cent good for you guys to live happily ever after. If you’re fighting more than 20 per cent of the time, things are not going to hold up.

Ok it’s time to get real, and accept that your expectations of a 100 per cent perfect relationship are unrealistic, if not unhelpful. It's not easy to keep a sense of humour about things when every day is literally make or break.

If you think you might have found the one… you have to get down off the make-or-break rollercoaster. Here’s what Dr Gottman’s team suggests.

1. Stop freaking out about conflict

Dr. Gottman’s balance theory of relationships implies that negativity is important in healthy partnerships. Negativity allows couples to identify and work out interaction patterns that don’t work, and alerts partners to the differences in each other’s perspectives.

A relationship without conflict would not be able to move forward.

Argue nicely to save your relationship

2. Argue nicely

Gottman says:

“I can tell you with certainty that when it comes to relationships, if one partner is “winning,” then both partners are losing."

Make statements that start with “I” instead of “You.” 

Instead of saying “You are not listening to me,” try, “I don’t feel like you are listening right now.”

Instead of “You are need to stop shopping,” say, “I think that we should try to save more.” 

Complain but don’t blame.

Instead of “You said you would come to my parent’s house for dinner and now you want to stay at home and watch TV,”

try a simple complaint: “Hey, we agreed you’d come for dinner tonight and I’d be very disappointed if you couldn’t make it.”

Describe what is happening, but don’t evaluate or judge. 

Your partner really can’t read your mind. Instead of attacking with accusations like “You never clean the kitchen,”

try saying, “I seem to be the only one doing the dishes today. I’m really tired – do you mind giving me a hand?” 

Be polite and appreciative. 

Dr Gottman says:

"When the masters of marriage are talking about something important, they may be arguing, but they are also laughing and teasing and there are signs of affection because they have made emotional connections."

Try adding phrases like “please” and “I really appreciate it” to keep the love flowing during a difficult conversation.

Don’t store things up! 

Don’t wait forever to bring up an issue with your partner. If not, you risk bringing up a laundry list of unrelated issues when you’re feeling exhausted and overwhelmed - drama is not helpful.

3. Make it better x 5

A simple apology won’t cut it, according to the magic ratio. The good news is Gottman’s formula is also a proven fixit:

“The equation is not balanced. If you do something negative to hurt your partner's feelings, you have to make up for it with five positive things." 

It’s time to get busy with some kind and loving gestures. This isn’t about spending money on gifts, it’s about connecting, touching, smiling, paying compliments, laughing and cuddling up.

The Secret to Everlasting Love

4. Benefits of a happy marriage – a longer, happier life!

Thanks to the work of researchers Lois Verbrugge and James House of the University of Michigan, we know that an unhappy marriage can increase your chances of getting sick by roughly 35 per cent and even shorten your life by an average of four to eight years.

The flip side: people who are happily married live four to eight years longer. There's also growing evidence that a good marriage may keep you healthier by boosting your immune system with good vibrations.

The bottom line: keep it real. Be positive, and accept those times of conflict as a path for growth and a means to an end - everlasting love.

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