It doesn’t matter if you’re married to your soulmate or your best friend. You may be happy and in love with your spouse, but conflicts will always be an inevitable part of marriage.
Conflicts may be normal and unavoidable, but there are ways to deal with them. How you handle these conflicts can make or break your relationship. Communicating and compromising are two key skills needed, but in reality, it’s easier said than done.
What is the magic 5:1 ratio in a healthy relationship?
The magic 5:1 ratio came from a series of experiments and studies that observed how couples interact with each other in the face of conflict. These studies conducted by Gottman and Levenson, have fared through different couples’ relationships over the years, and have come up with interesting findings.
Gottman’s magic 5:1 ratio in a healthy relationship suggests that happily married couples, when faced with 1 negative situation or conflict, tend to work on 5 positive interactions or feelings.
These positive interactions may include teasing each other, laughing together, physical touch, showing attention, or offering acts of service. Negative interactions are the most common problems discussed in Gottman’s The Four Horsemen which include contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
Of course, no one would go counting all these when faced with a conflict, but it’s important to note that every negative emotion or situation should be handled by bigger amounts of positive interactions. For example, happy couples may argue about something undesirable to both of them, but they’d try to keep it positive by laughing about it, hugging each other while talking, or showing physical affection.
Unhappy couples tend to add more negative emotions and unhealthy interactions during conflicts. For instance, when a small argument about a criticism arises, the other responds by being defensive or by returning the argument in the form of another criticism. This is where the situation can go worse, and in time, can be impossible to repair.
Positive interactions to work on when faced with conflicts
The ups and downs of a relationship can either result in a happier marriage or an unhealthy one. How you take care of each other during the good times can help, but how you respond to each other when times get tough can most likely be the deal-breaker.
Here’s how you can keep your relationship healthy during conflicts:
Appreciate each other and show it
Conflicts arise because of contradicting behaviors and expectations of each other. While in a fight, try to find something that makes you appreciate your partner more.
For example, if your wife tends to nag about how you leave things messy around the house, instead of being defensive, try to think she’s doing it because she wants to keep your home clean. Don’t forget to show this appreciation to her, and explain your side calmly or apologize if needed.
Show affection and positively respond to it
Arguments are less likely to escalate when you’re showing affection to each other. During awkward confrontations, light physical contact like holding hands, or just touching each other affectionately can make a big difference.
It’s hard to be affectionate during a heated argument. Especially when you’ve both said hurtful words to each other. Once you’re both calm, and your partner showed even the tiniest bit of effort to connect, do your best to respond in a positive way.
Be interested in what your partner is trying to say
When we’re angry, we tend to disregard what the other person is saying and focus all our attention on ourselves. In doing so, we fail to understand if your partner is making sense, or if their arguments are valid.
Be attentive to your partner’s words and how he/she communicates. This can keep you from focusing on your own emotions and can help you better understand why your partner is behaving that way.
Do a chore
If you both had an argument and your partner is avoiding you or maybe not talking to you, try silently doing random acts of service. Do a chore your partner usually does that you think is stressing him or her, like washing the dishes, taking out the trash, or cooking dinner.
By making the mood lighter, you’re showing your partner that even if you’re still not in agreement, you’re open to communicating with him or her. This way, it’s much easier to be calm and friendly when settling your issues.
Laugh it out
Small, irrelevant arguments are products of bigger issues that have happened in the past. While it’s not advisable to shrug it off, it’s important to ease the tension first during a heated argument so you can keep your communication healthy. Playful teasing, sharing inside jokes, and showing a bit of silliness can help.
But take note, jokes can sometimes backfire during these situations. Remember that your goal is to ease the tension, not fuel the fire.
Find opportunities for agreement
During fights, partners tend to focus on the hurtful and negative things they can say to each other. With these, small arguments grow into bigger issues that arise because none of them find anything agreeable with each other.
It may be hard to do, but try to seek opportunities for agreement during a conflict. When partners agree on one thing during a fight, even how small it is, it can change both their perspectives and can shift arguments.
Marital stability is highly dependent on how you deal with conflicts, no matter how big or small. It’s normal for any strong relationship to experience rough patches along the way. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to make it better.
The magic 5:1 ratio can only work its magic if you do. Unhealthy marriages and divorce are the results of how you deal with each other on a daily basis, especially in the face of conflict.
However, there will be cases when you need a relationship expert’s help. If you feel your marriage is getting a little shaky, trust that we can help you smoothen things out. Why don’t you schedule an appointment so we can talk about it?