The Daily Man-Up: Maintain Your Relationship By Treating It Like a Bank Account

February 14, 2019 | No Comments » | Topics: Dating, Man-Up

In the first few years of a relationship, you and your beloved’s brains are bathed with a heady cocktail of chemicals that make you feel positively high for each other. And you can’t imagine ever feeling differently. Those middle-aged couples who sit silently staring at each other at restaurants? That will never be you two. Those friends you know going through an acrimonious divorce? No way you’ll ever find yourself in their shoes. You guys are different. Your relationship is surely above average. You’re destined to beat the odds in every way.

You get married and several more years go by. You argue more and have sex a lot less. You don’t feel as close, and sometimes you do stare at each other silently while digging into a Moons Over My Hammy. You’re not unhappy, per se, but you’re not really happy, either. You kind of feel like platonic roommates who enjoy each other’s company; you get along alright, but there’s a lack of depth, richness, and ardor to your relationship. The old spark is gone.

While the arc of this common story might seem like an inevitability, it’s not. Research shows that romantic love can last. You can beat the odds.

How? Answers on this question abound, and are readily offered by friends and family, trained marriage therapists, and popular culture in general.

Unfortunately, a lot of the advice given through these well-meaning channels, even by the “experts,” just isn’t accurate.

The real secret — one that’s been scientifically-studied and research-vetted — to establishing and maintaining a happy and long-lasting relationship is actually gloriously uncomplicated. Easy, really. Even fun. In fact, it doesn’t even involve working directly on your marriage at all.

Instead, all you have to do is think about your relationship like a bank account — a kind of trust, that, if consistently funded with deposits of positivity, will keep your marriage in the “black” your whole life through.

The Importance of Your Relationship Bank Account

Nearly 70% of marital conflicts are perpetual and unresolvable — they’re ongoing and last the couple’s entire lifetime. Spouses tend to butt heads over the same things year, after year, after year.

If you believe that conflict resolution is the key to a successful marriage, this is pretty depressing news. It essentially means that almost no marriage can be happy.

But, if you follow Gottman’s research-backed philosophy, such issues are not a problem; in fact, he would say that friction is a natural part of the ying and yang of life in general, and of relationships specifically, and that some negativity in a marriage is actually healthy.

As long as it’s balanced by positive aspects.

Gottman has actually formulated a precise ratio for where this balance needs to reside for a marriage to maintain its stability and happiness: 5:1. A couple that has at least five times more positive interactions than negative ones will ultimately succeed.

Happy marriages thus aren’t conflict-free, they’re just infused with more positivity than negativity. This reserve of positivity acts as a buffer that mitigates and defuses the love-deteriorating effects of a couple’s conflicts — absorbing these negative ripples and keeping them from spreading and overwhelming the relationship. Gottman calls this dynamic “positive sentiment override.”

Another way to look at this balance is in terms of a kind of “relationship bank account.”

If a couple’s relationship bank account is running low on “funds” (there’s been more negative interactions for a while than positive ones), then each “withdrawal” (conflict) brings the balance on the account closer and closer to zero, or even towards an “overdraft.” Thus each argument feels weighty and fraught with peril — like it’s moving the relationship towards the brink of “bankruptcy” — a break-up or divorce.

If a couple’s account is overflowing with positivity, on the other hand, then they can afford to make occasional “withdrawals” without any danger of the funds going into deficit. Since there’s an ample safety cushion in place, when a withdrawal is made, it doesn’t feel like the stakes are all that serious. The idea that a conflict is moving them closer to divorce, or a sign that they’re not going to make it, is a million miles away — it isn’t even remotely on the table. An argument is just a dumb argument, and nothing more.

As Gottman puts it, the difference between couples in “positive sentiment override” as opposed to “negative sentiment override,” is that while the former “communicate to each other every emotion in the spectrum, including anger, irritability, disappointment, and hurt, they also communicate their fundamental fondness and respect. Whatever issue they are discussing, they give each other the message that they are loved and accepted, ‘warts and all.’”

Check out the rest of the article at The Art Of Manliness