A marital therapy researcher, Dr. John Gottman claims he can predict – with 94% accuracy! – which couples will make it and which won’t, based on only a few observable patterns. He was on Oprah, but don’t hold that against him.
Whether or how often a couple fights is not the main factor. What is more important – the key, according to Gottman, to what makes or breaks a marraige – is how those conflicts are resolved, especially whether the resolution leaves people feeling close, safe and caring again. And no matter what style a couple has for dealing with conflict, couples who last have at least five times as many positive as negative moments together. This means that for every negative, painful comment, action, and encounter, each of you needs to experience five positive ones.
Negative Affect Reciprocity – Gottman (1999) most consistent discriminator btwn happily and unhappily married couples. Probability that a person’s emotions will be negative (anger, sadness, belligerence, contempt) right after his partner has expressed negativity. Far better measurement that amount of negative affect.
Avoid exploring negativity.
Some reinvigoration, remembering and refreshing of the good story elements must precede or accompany repair attempts if they are to be successful.
So I am guessing that higher postive to negative moment ratios, at least 5 to 1, reduce negative affect reciprocity. I bet this also applies to other familial relationships. If we decrease the number of positive moments we have with our kids, especially as they get older and spend less time with us and they aren’t so into cuddling, than things can deteriorate. If they are out a lot and we are worried about their safety and follwing rules, then when we talk to them we often go to safety first and that often isn’t a positive moment for either party.
I think this is particularly tough for stepparents who feel obligated to maintain discipline when the bio parent isn’t there, but feel inhibited out of respect for boundaries from showing too much affection.
I think this requires some creative thinking and perhaps some increased willingness to go out of one’s comfort zone. For example, hold off on discipline moments with older kids until you get your ‘ratio’ up.