Relationships, Part 25, Twenty to One


If you thought the key test that I told you about in the last post in this series was too simple, you’ll like this better. Get two counters. You know, the kind you put in your pocket and click. Set them to zero and put one in each pocket.

Now see how you interact with your partner.

Every time you make a negative comment to your partner, a criticism, a beef, a bitch, or a complaint, click that counter in your left hand pocket. Whenever you impugn negative motives, roll your eyes, or heave a dramatic sigh, click that left hand counter. Anything he or she might take offense at, anything that cuts your partner down a notch or two, gets a click.

Click the right hand counter whenever you give thanks, express admiration, listen to her stories, laugh at his jokes, whenever you spoil her. A smile, a tender touch, a hug, a kiss, those xx’s and oo’s in his lunch, those flowers you sent to her workplace, that negligee he gave you that you wore, all warrant clicks of the right hand counter. Exactly how many clicks a dozen roses gets, is open to interpretation. Basically, anything nice you do, anything affirming, gets clicks.

Be sure you understand the difference between positive and negative. If you say you nag your husband to put the toilet seat down is positive because you love him, then you don’t understand the difference between positive and negative. If he is likely to perceive the nagging as negative, it’s negative, no matter how sweetly you think you say it.

And guys, putting that seat down if she wants you to deserves a click, also.

Now look at the ratio of clicks, the right versus the left. You’re shooting for 20:1. Studies have shown that’s the ratio of positive to negative interactions found in happy couples. Conflicted couples have about 5:1. One to one, or worse, predicts divorce.

Yes, that’s right. There should be about 20 positive contacts for every negative. That’s how many positive interactions it takes to overcome the detrimental effects of one lousy unit of negativity. Negativity hits us harder, it packs more punch, we remember it longer, we take it to heart. Positivity is often taken for granted. Positivity needs to overwhelm for it to get noticed at all.

Click here to go to the entire Relationships series.

Published by Keith R Wilson

I'm a licensed mental health counselor and certified alcohol and substance abuse counselor in private practice with more than 30 years experience. My newest book is The Road to Reconciliation: A Comprehensive Guide to Peace When Relationships Go Bad. I recently published a workbook connected to it titled, How to Make an Apology You’ll Never Have to Make Again. I also have another self help book, Constructive Conflict: Building Something Good Out of All Those Arguments. I’ve also published two novels, a satire of the mental health field: Fate’s Janitors: Mopping Up Madness at a Mental Health Clinic, and Intersections , which takes readers on a road trip with a suicidal therapist. If you prefer your reading in easily digestible bits, with or without with pictures, I have created a Twitter account @theshrinkslinks. MyFacebook page is called Keith R Wilson – Author.

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