Ron and Barb came to see me for a problem with their teen, but as they discussed the problem, I could tell within a half hour that they weren’t a happy couple. How did I know? I watched, listened, and counted the number of negative and positive interactions.

During the time of conflict, Ron and Barb had more negative interactions than positive. In fact, every time they tried to go positive, one of them slammed the other with a criticism. At the end of about 20 minutes, the interaction was so negative, I wanted to leave the room!

Ron and Barb did not measure up to the golden rule for happy couples. They didn’t make the magic ratio of 5 positive interactions to every negative interactions. Their ratio was less than 1 to 1.

Years ago, Drs. Gottman and Levinson studied couples and made an important discovery. Happy couples have the 5 to 1 ratio going during conflict, and unhappy couples like Ron and Barb are less than 1 to 1.

Happy couples might argue, but they also maintain their emotional connection with teasing, laughter and expressions of fondness. They are gentle in their start-up of conflict, and make repairs along the way, keeping the conflict interaction positive. They listen and accept the influence of the other.

And there is more, couples who are happy have a 20 to 1 ratio of positives to negatives when talking to each other during non conflict times.

What’s a positive interaction? Looking your partner in the eye, teasing, laughing, showing interest, asking a question, giving a hug, hand holding, a kiss, giving a compliment, lifting the mood, expressing affection, etc. You get the idea. Show your love and affection, be a friend and stay positive even during conflict.

The real Golden Rule is to do unto others as you would have them do to you. Sounds like the same thing when it comes to being married. Now get out there and be positive.

Secrets of happy couples