How do couples move from being so close to not trusting one another’s behavior and intention? Over the next few weeks I will write about some of those processes.
For those who cannot wait, the answer is simple and not easy. Pay attention to your partner and make sure you have their back. When they attempt to get your attention and talk, hangout etc. do not blow them off or take them for granted (by the way, this is the biggest mistake most couples make- you not so subtly signal that they do not matter).
The best description of a process or path that leads to betrayal is on page 50 of The New Science of Love where Gottman outlines “the cascade toward distrust and betrayal.” There are 24 steps to get there and when you look at the outline it is easy to see how this happens in every relationship. Maybe not the affair part, but the process to get to the point where you see your spouse as someone you cannot rely upon. I simply love how straightforward it is and in this particular book, he takes you through the math involved in his research.
While parts of the math explanation are soporific, other parts really appeal to me. What he is showing is that he does not just accept common knowledge as fact and has, in fact, disproved some “common knowledge” with his research. This helps counselors like me use what is effective for couples.
“The most fighting in a relationship happens in the first two years,” he writes. “Conflict at this phase is about establishing trust. The couple either establishes trust or divorces…half of all divorces happens in the first stormy 7 years after the wedding…success or failure is dependent on how couples argue… if the ratio of positivity to negativity during the argument exceeds 5 (5 positive to 1 negative-during the argument) they will make it. Less than 5 is a predictor of divorce.”
Please take a moment to re-read that. If you care about your relationship, and my guess is that you do or you would not be reading this blog, pay attention to the 5:1 ratio. Look at your relationship and ask yourself how close you are to 5:1 and what you can do to improve.
Next Week: More on how to choose the path toward trust instead of betrayal.
Side note: This week, tonight, starts both my Men’s Group and Women’s Gathering. We are exploring how each gender does friendship and support and how much overlap there is between the genders. Hoping my enthusiasm is contagious, because I am really looking forward to it!