Jack Truher's commentary

Principles of a Strong Marriage

Some Stanford folks I know just got an an mail to the Staffers Group forum on

Mind-Body Lectures from the Stanford Hospital

offering a lecture from one of the medical groups on
"Principles of a Strong Marriage (and how to make them work for you )- Penny Donnelly RN MFT will speak about the research that John Gottman has done.

Learn about the principles that foster a happy and sustainable marriage and the mistakes to avoid. 7/20/10"

John Gottman is a well known Professor of Psychology, with here, a most striking observation in a review of his book:

There are general principles in his formulation. Not just about marriage; It's about getting along.

Gottman provides the reader with a self-test to diagnose his or her own marriage style. He emphasizes, there isn't' just one form of stable marriage. Some forms are more conflicted than others.
"Interestingly, while it is important for a marriage to settle into one of the three stable marriage styles it is not the most crucial element to the successful marital relationship. According to Gottman's research, the key to a blissful marriage is not found in the marriage style itself, but in a simple mathematical formula. "No matter what style of marriage you have, you must have at least five times as many positive as negative moments together if your marriage is to be stable" (p. 29). What really separates contented couples from those in marital misery is a healthy balance of five positive interactions to one negative interaction toward each other. As long as there is five times as much positive feeling and interaction between a husband and a wife as there is negative, the marriage is likely to be stable. Based upon this ratio, Gottman reports that he is able to predict with better than 90% accuracy whether or not couples are likely to divorce. How is it that couples with a volatile relationship are able to remain stable over time? Gottman suggests that while these couples may yell and scream a lot, they spend at least five times as much of their marriage being loving and making up. These three successful marital styles are equally successful because they allow very different kinds of couples to maintain this crucial ratio of positives and negatives. Moreover, the author provides nine specific ways in which a couple can increase the number of positive interactions in their marriage."
Good strategy, we would most agree, but not everybody is so fortunate.

"Marry well, or get lucky as to whom you marry" works too.

Isn't it also true that the 5/1 ratio is TRUE FOR EVERY STABLE RELATIONSHIP? As in the workplace? But only possible if all parties are trying. Like marriage.

Well yes, 5/1 is the best bet, but again, it's not always available. Usually we have to work through complex problems in the real world, until we arrive at the 5/1 Nirvana settlement with any partner. If you start out with "5/1 or you're out", you're not being realistic.

I think Gottman's 5/1 rule has very general applicability to stability consequences, including workplace relationships.It's an application of Behavioral Psychology. The "Power of Positive Thinking", but with more realistic tolerance for all the wonderful variety that surprises all of us.

Would a 5/1 ratio be a good at work. Not necessarily. It depends on the maturity of an organization. Working means conflicted ideas clash about how to get things done. Too much agreement too soon could mean avoiding the hard issues by defining away failure. Stability is not the primary objective at work. Efficiency is. Safety is. Integrity. Research progress. Project advancement. Lots of things are more important than stability at work. But a well functioning organization, after the smoke has cleared, might look that way too.

I put the entire book review on John Gottman's book on my web site.

But what if you can't or won't work things out?

I've got a book review for that too. This one from the Washington Post in 2007.

There are smart ways to break off relationships, and dumb ways. No easy ways.