Olivia Rowlatt

Sex and Relationship Therapist (COSRT Accredited)

Gottman’s ratio and relationships

Couple therapy, Bath. Gottman's ratio indicates good couple communication. Gottman's ratio helps sort relationship issues.What is Gottman’s ratio?

In 1983 John Gottman interviewed 73 newly-wed couples. Each couple was filmed in conversation for 15 minutes. The number of positive and negative interactions between each couple were counted.

Gottman found that the happiest couples had around 5 positive interactions to every negative interaction.

He was able to predict whether couples would stay together or get divorced.

A follow-up in 1987 showed that Gottman had predicted divorce with 94% accuracy

Why does Gottman’s ratio work?

Positive interactions

  1. If you say something positive to your partner it makes them feel good.
  2. When hear yourself saying something positive to your partner it makes you feel good about yourself.
  3. When you behave in a positive loving way you start to feel more positive and loving.
  4. Your partner is more likely to take your negative comment seriously if most of your comments are positive.

Negative interactions

  1. The negative interactions are as important as the positive ones. They are most effective in Gottman’s ratio, 5 positive: 1 negative.
  2. It is normal to feel annoyed with your partner occasionally. It reminds you and your partner that you are two different people with different perspectives.
  3. A relationship without conflict is not able to move on. Over time goals, feelings and situations change. Negative interactions alert couples of the need to adjust things in the relationship.
  4. Some couples, are “volatile”. They unleash anger at one another. However, they offset that anger with even larger doses of warm feelings. Despite the volatility, such couples tend to be stable and successful.They not only influence each other with anger but also with affection.

Clients often say that Gottman’s ratio of 5 positives to 1 negative sounds impossible to achieve!

Each time you think something positive about your partner say it to them.

Check out these suggestions of positive interactions:

    • Make a cup of tea/ coffee for your partner.
    • Give your partner a hug/ kiss/ hold their hand.
    • Put music on your partner likes.
    • Ask your partner about their day.
    • Text your partner to say hello.
    • Try saying the following:
      • “You look nice today”
      • “That top suits you”
      • “You’re a great father/ mother”
      • “This is a delicious meal”
      • “It was a good idea of yours to ….”
      • “I like it when you…”

Try out Gottman’s ratio with your friends, colleagues, children etc.

Call me if you want to know more…