Do We Overcomplicate Romantic Relationships? Kindness as a Key to a Happy Partnership

Do We Overcomplicate Romantic Relationships? Kindness as a Key to a Happy Partnership

What makes for a happy relationship? Everyone has a different answer for that questions. Some of you will say “things in common.” Others will say “sexual chemistry” or “attraction.” Others, if they were being honest, will say things like the “class,” “race” or “religion.” But there is a problem with that list: those are all cultural markers of identity. They say little about what a person is actually like.

So if I asked you, what character traits make for a happy relationship? Again, everyone would have a different answer to that question. Some of you will say “sense of humor.” Others will say “honesty.” Most of you will say, “kind.” But what does that actually mean? What does kindness actually look like in a relationship?

5:1, The Magic Ratio for a Happy Relationship

It seems obvious that having more positive experiences than negative ones in a romantic relationship is necessary for it to survive. But is there a way to actually quantify this? Relationship psychologist, John Gottman, believes he has found the answer. Using a mathematical model, he discovered: 

"The magic ratio is 5:1. In other words, as long as there are five times as many positive interactions between partners as there are negative, the relationship is likely to be stable. It is based on this ratio that Dr. Gottman is able to predict divorce! Very unhappy couples tend to have more negative than positive interactions. The bottom line: even though some level of negativity is necessary for a stable relationship, positivity is what nourishes your love. On Wednesday, we will investigate further into Dr. John Gottman’s “Magic Ratio” that has received national attention

This is not to say that a relationship with conflict is a bad one. Every relationship has disagreement. But learning how to turn your disagreements into positives where neither party is feeling overly criticized and understood is key.

And when you're not disagreement, it's important to keep the relationship healthy by finding ways to interact with each other in new and interesting ways. That can be hard with levels of anxiety so high in today's society. But to keep any relationship strong takes more work and self-reflection than social media world would have us believe. 

Anthony Tshering is a psychotherapist in the New York City area. Please contact him at (347) 927-4856 or if you'd like to set up a consultation appointment for therapy.