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Diana Kirschner
The latest marital research shows that happy couples relate to each other with a golden five-to-one rule. That is, they have five positive, loving exchanges for every critical or negative one. On the other hand, marriages with high degrees of conflict, with lots of contempt, criticism, defensiveness and the silent treatment are unhappy and very likely to fail.

I noticed that just like the other couples I was counseling Sam and I followed the five-to-one rule all right. But mostly in reverse. In fact, we got so mean to each other that we were riding what love researcher, Dr. John Gottman, calls a horseman of the Apocalypse. In other words, we were doomed.

What Saved Us

We realized that everyone screws up and says stupid things, especially to their partners. People get tired and snappy, irritable and defensive. They can be downright insulting. Everybody can.

But we wanted to stop our negative moments from exploding into World War III. We both knew that the World War III scenario was killing off our marriage. So we used a signal with each other to transform an incendiary exchange that was heading into battle into one that drew us together.

We realized that reality is, in a sense, like a movie we are making all the time. If you want to make a great romance, you need to practice rewinding the tape when you dont like the take. We agreed that either of us could call out Take Two whenever he/she was hurt or offended by an interaction. Then we would start the interaction all over again and construct it in a more loving win-win wayas a happy improv. If Sam had trouble saying the words I needed to hear on a Take Two, I would teach him and vice versa. This technique has saved us many many times!

The last time Sam and I were on a plane together we started snapping at each other and then we did a Take Two. I wound up sitting on his lap telling him a joke. The stewardess asked us how long we had been going out together! She was shocked when we answered, Over 25 years!

So there you have it: four magic practices that deliver excellence in your love relationship. If we can do it, so can you.

P.S. You can use these practices even if your partner wont cooperate. On your own you can find a few minutes of couple time when you can be a good listener; act like youre having an affair with your partner; or change your mean-spirited words into loving ones. If you do this consistently, 99% of the time your partner will join in and your love will thrive.

Diana Kirschner

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