Staying together for ever? There's a formula for that.

Want to grow old together? Luckily, a researcher has discovered a simple formula to boost your odds. 

Marriage is tough. Which is probably why Mr. Disney ends his films after the wedding vows.

About four months into meeting my now husband, I attended a friend’s wedding. And during some pre-wedding festivity I overheard one of her bridesmaids talking about marriage. What she said has remained with me:

“Sometimes I love my husband. But sometimes, I really just want to kill him. But one thing stops me: I’ll have to go to jail afterwards.”

Obviously, she was joking (I hope). But it stuck with me because it made me realise “happily-ever-after” included bouts of “argh, why are you so annoying?” and “can’t you just bugger off!” etc. And it’s true. Sure there are times I love my husband more than I can describe. But there are also times when I wonder if going to jail is really that bad.

But then I read this article about a formula for staying together, and it made a great deal of sense to me.

Researcher  Dr. John Gottman has spent decades delivering empirical data that provide mathematical formulas of what works—and what doesn’t. When I first learned he could predict divorce with 94 percent accuracy, I was skeptical and intrigued…

Here’s Gottman’s formula—1:5.

It means that for every negative interaction a couple has (eye roll, dismissive body language, actual negative utterance, etc.), there need to be at least five positive interactions (a kiss, a genuine loving look, genuinely positive comments).

Basically, for every mean, nasty, “I will win this fight!” remark, you need to say or do 5 nice, “I’m sorry”, “I love you” things.

Why? Because that 1 thing hurts! And if it isn’t erased and smoothed over it can fester. And fester never helped anyone.

Basically, after you have said things like:

“You are the most annoying person to be around when you are like this!”


“You’re so stupid, everything that comes out of your mouth is BS.”


“Why did I even marry you?!?”

You need to be nice. Both with words and actions. Sorrys need to be said, grudges must not be held, and cups of tea need to be made.

You also need to know what makes you tick. And untick. The more you know about yourself before you get into a relationship, the more you can tell your partner what to look out for.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding: So, okay? Here tonight, we have, ah, apple and orange. We all different, but in the end, we all fruit.

If an issue that my husband and I are fighting about is a real heart-string-puller for me, then I shut down. Not because I hate him (I do hate him a little at the time), but because I am trying to control my emotions. At that very point, they are raging inside me, as Hermione Grainger from Harry Potter once explained:

“Well, obviously she’s feeling sad… Then I expect she’s feeling confused…Then she’ll be feeling guilty… And she will be worrying about what everyone else might say about her…And she probably can’t figure out what her feelings are…so that’s all very mixed up and painful.”

While that makes perfect sense to us girls, this is what men are thinking:

Ron Weasley’s reply: “One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode.”

Exactly, Ron. And while I am avoiding exploding, my husband gets frustrated that I won't talk it out. DEFCON 5.

So we have eventually started to understand each other – that I sometimes need a moment to gather all that turmoil and put it in a sentence. While I know when my husband and I are having fights that go around in circles, we just need a moment in our corners to calm down and realise we are fighting over nothing.

Now, I am not an expert. We still go to bed angry – despite my best intentions of saying we should never go to bed angry. But we resolve a fight…eventually. We realise that whatever we were fighting about either was nothing important enough to cost us our relationship or had a simple solution once we stopped fuming. And we say our sorrys and tell each other something nice.

Now we just need to up that to 5 nice things - compliment away, husband, compliment away...

What do you think of the 1:5 formula?