Goleman on Marital Harmony

by F.

Daniel Goleman, the author of Emotional Intelligence (worth reading, for sure) dishes up some nice common sense over lunch with the FT:

Two things seem to be essential for a robust, happy and healthy marriage, he begins. “The first is when a couple is learning how to work out disagreements, they don’t let it escalate to the point where they can’t talk about it any more; maybe they have a time-out and then talk about the problem in a more rational way.”

In other words, don’t go from 0 to “you’re a bitch!” (or “you’re an asshole!”) in 3 seconds. Some words when spoken really can’t be taken back. I think any relationship only has a very small number of bitch/asshole tokens, and once you spend them, you don’t get no more. (You may not even have any to start with—and it’s best not to find out how many you have).

The second is the five-to-one ratio. The healthiest marriages have five positive interactions for every one negative one. “That means that if you’re going to fight for a half hour, have a good time for an evening.”