Balancing Joy and Conflict in Marriage

Making marriage work these days is a complicated balancing act. It takes time to communicate, resolve conflict, raise children and manage the challenges of busy careers.

Marriage and family researcher, John Gottman, PhD and his research colleagues have had a huge influence on the course of marital and family therapy over the last twenty years. I use many of the marital satisfaction surveys they have created. They are very helpful to couples trying to identify and work on their problems.

His research has compiled huge amounts of data and increased our understanding of what helps and what hurts marriages. Rather than try to research a specific therapy method or style of marriage or family life, Gottman studied many marriages and families over several decades. He was able to begin to see what really worked for couples and their families.

The results of their research is found in Why marriages succeed or fail…and how you can make yours last. This is one of my top ten books to read to make your relationship better.

One of his major findings was that happy couples had a healthy balance between positive and negative feelings and actions towards each other. It wasn’t how much they fought or made love.

It was how they balanced their fighting with touching, smiling, paying compliments, laughing–showing love and passion for one another. They found that the ratio of 5 to 1 positive interactions to negative interactions did the trick. These couples had a deeper, more satisfying marriage.

If you are fighting too much, it is a good idea to slow things down, learn to listen more, and increase the positive time together.

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