What is the key to maintaining healthy relationships? Counseling and Health Psychology faculty member Sylvie Shuttleworth takes a look at research and has some tips for achieving healthier, stronger relationships.
Research done by John Gottman has shown that in healthy relationships, the Magic Ratio of positive feelings or interactions to negative is 5:1. That is, in healthy relationships, for every one negative feeling or interaction that a couple had, they had five positive feelings or interactions. Gottman's research also found that an unhappy relationship can increase your chances of getting sick by roughly 35% and even shorten your life by an average of four years. People who are happy in their relationships live longer, healthier lives! Communication is many times a cornerstone in trying to figure out why there may be a discrepancy between what we would like to have happen in our relationships and what actually occurs. Maintaining a quality relationship requires effective communication. Partners need to express positive feelings, negative feelings, complaints, needs, and above all, affection.
Dr. Gottman has been studying couples for over 30 years and he discovered four negative communication behaviors and failed repair attempts. These factors predict with over 96% accuracy whether a relationship will continue or end (Gottman, 1994). He calls these The Four Horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.
Repair attempts can be almost anything: a smile, use of humor, a comment on the communication itself, or some way that the couples find to support and smooth one another. Couples who were consistently unsuccessful at repair attempts were more likely to end the relationship.
If you or your partner notices the Four Horseman in your conversations, consider these tips:
Listening and Responding
Grow in Self-Awareness: What does self-awareness mean?
Practice Self Care:
Maintaining healthy relationships can be a challenge! It takes work on both sides to ensure that the other person feels heard, respected and understood. For more information on relationship dynamics, or how to improve your communication, schedule a $25 counseling appointment at Bastyr University Clinic or Bastyr Center for Natural Health today.