The Magic Ratio for a Happy Marriage

If I said the words “magic ratio” or “5 to 1” would you instantly know what I was referring to? For most, the answer is no. However, us marriage counselors, this ratio means something important. In fact, it is a clue or formula to how to have a happy marriage/relationship. In fact, the marriage research gurus, Dr. Gottman and Robert Levenson, have been studying relationships for decades and have been able to predict with 90 percent accuracy which couples will stay together and which will divorce. “How do they do this,” you might ask. It’s the magic formula.

Research has shown that happy couples differ from unhappy couples because of the balance between positive and negative interactions during conflict. You guessed it- there needs to be 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative. This is why I talk about intentional acts of positive interactions. They go a long way and you are literally adding to the bank in your relationship. Let’s discuss some positive intentional acts to work on with your partner this week. Hey, it is kind of like investing in the stock market, but instead in your relationship!

1.     Think about your partner’s love language: gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. Now reflect, when you try to show your partner appreciation or love do you use your own love language or your partners? Try thinking about your partner’s love language and show appreciation through their love language.

2.     Work on communication. Yep! This is pretty much the number 1 thing that a couple reports that they want to work on when they enter my office. There are a few easy “tricks of the trade” that you can work on immediately at home. We are listening to others about 60 percent of the day, but only retaining about 25 percent of what we hear. One theory about this is that we listen with the intent to respond instead of the intent to understand. During your next argument, try listening without interrupting and then instead of responding try to paraphrase and reflect what you heard. You will notice that people’s emotions actually increase and conflict worsens when the person feels like they are not heard, by reflecting on their words, the conflict is minimized. Also, you will likely learn more about your partner’s feelings- think about that 60 percent of listening and 25 percent of retaining stat!

3.     Small deeds add up. Try sending a text or email in the day to allow your partner to know you are thinking of them. Take on a household responsibility that your partner typically does without asking. Compliment your partner on their appearance. These are the small, daily actions that can add up and invest in your relationship.

4.     Don’t forget to say sorry. Listen, a secret that most couple’s counselors could tell you is that even if you 100 percent believe you were 100 % right in an argument, there are likely things that you could have done better with during the conflict. Did you ignore your partner’s feelings, resort to name calling, bring up the past, or withdraw completely from the conversation? If the answer was yes to any of those questions, then likely you could apologize.

Happy couples don’t live in conflict. Their relationship consists of mostly positives. Have fun. Laugh often. Intentionally think about them. Let them know you care. Remember the “magic ratio” has magic in the name. Now I just gave you the magic formula for a happy marriage; what can you do to use it?

Written by Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC-S

Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. Amy has been practicing for fifteen years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Houston Heights and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy's counseling style by visiting and read more about her services