We can all appreciate that happy relationships contribute to a successful life. Loving encounters, exchange of kindness, and heart-to-heart connections with others are fulfilling. In fact, the famous Harvard Study of Adult Development, tracked the lives of 724 men for 75 years – found that not wealth, nor fame, it was good relationships that kept them happier and healthier. The same is seen in centenarians who live to 100 or more – they attribute their longevity to community involvement and positive human interaction.
Keeping our relationships strong and healthy requires hard work and effort. Compare human affairs with bank accounts. You can make unlimited deposits but withdrawals are limited by account balance. Withdrawal without sufficient funds results in overdraw. The same is true for relationships. Let’s see how.
Deposits are instances when we greet others with affection, encourage them, overlook their faults, adjust to their point of view, and support them in their goals. Withdrawals happen when we scold others, censure their behavior, make them do what they do not want to do, and so on. Such withdrawals are sometimes necessary—but we can only withdraw to the extent of our relational balance. And for that we must keep making deposits.
Relationship researcher, John Gottman, revealed the 5:1 magic ratio of deposits versus withdrawals for successful relationships. His study of married couples over many years showed that stable and happy relationships require at least five positive feelings and actions for every one negative feeling or interaction. That means we need a minimum of five loving sentiments to counteract the effects of one negative behavior. If we can master this art, we can be on our way to fostering happy relationships!