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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

One Key Factor to Predicting if Your Relationship will Last

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 21st 2010

relationshipIf you’re in a relationship, take a moment to think about how often you are kind to your partner versus fighting or argumentative? The ratio of this may very well determine whether your relationship is going to last or not. John Gottman, PhD, is one of our foremost experts on relationships and author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. For years now in his lab up in Seattle, Washington, he and his associates carefully look at relationships on tapes to see what are the critical elements that lead to lasting or breaking up? One key element was how often people fight versus. So what is the ratio?


They found that couples that spend equal time fighting versus being kind to one another will not last. There needs to be a ratio of 5 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction.

So think about your intimate relationship, what is the ratio today?

If it’s below 5 to 1, this isn’t a sentencing, there are ways to rebalance, and truth be told, if you really want to stay in this relationship, why not start rebalancing today? Is it because of a belief that he or she owes you or you are always the one to initiate the positive interaction? The rules we hold in our heads often only serve to keep us closed and stuck.

How about having an honest and open conversation with your partner about this ratio and taking an account together of how this shows up in your relationship.

If the ration is less than 5 to 1, then how can you bring more kindness and caring in your day to day interactions?

How about practicing a bit more gratitude for one another? How about setting a reminder to actually practice random acts of kindness in the relationship? How about intentionally getting into the mood a bit more often as that can relieve stress and raise endorphins.

Rebalancing this ratio takes reflection and intention; it’s not going to happen automatically.

This doesn’t only have to be for our intimate relationships, how about friendships or family? What are those ratios like? Is there a way to start rebalancing those relationships to cultivate a greater sense of connection which breeds mental health?

Not to appeal to our ego-driven desires for motivation, but truth be told, this only serves to benefit you in the long run. When you those around you are happier and you feel more connected, you are far more likely to be happier.

So the question is, what are you waiting for, the opportunity is today, look at your relationships and begin intentionally bringing the good back into them.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. 


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

good reminder - Ondina - Jan 3rd 2011

this is a good reminder- thanx!

very nice - - Dec 22nd 2010

very nice article.

I will try to implement the same in my relationship as well.


Building emotional deposits - Vicki St. Clair - Dec 22nd 2010

Yes! I think this is a good indicator for any relationship - personal or business and something I 'try' to remain aware of.

Dr. Stephen Covey referred to something similar as making emotional bank deposits and withdrawals ... unfortunately, it can be all too easy to bankrupt a relationship. Good article, as always Dr. G!

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