Some Thoughts on the Science on Relationships

“Follow your dream, but take your brain along with you.” That short nugget of wisdom was by Alfred Adler written in the 1920s.

I believe that what Adler meant was that we should seek to investigate the scientific underpinnings within the field of relationships. A recent issue of Counseling Today provides several research findings that merit examination by therapists and individuals. Here are two that I found useful:

#8) Growth beliefs:

The downside of soul mate. The popular concept of a irresistible soul mate for each and every one, is very seductive. It suggests the supernatural hand of destiny. This belief, held by 71-73 percent of the American population, is termed “destiny beliefs.” This belief suggests that one rely upon the hand of fate and the irresistibility of sexual attraction. I find that reliance hardly scientific.

Research has a different view. The alternative is termed “growth beliefs.” Individuals and couples that hold “growth beliefs” adhere to the outlook that relationships naturally evolve IF a sense of intimacy with the partner is the goal. This model certainly involves conflict. The conflicts are at once challenging and opportunities. Individuals that embrace “growth beliefs” and reject “destiny beliefs” deliberately engage in more relationship-maintaining behaviors. This leads to interactions, that address the conflicts and seek resolution. The higher the “growth belief,” the higher the view that relationship conflict is normal, and offers an opportunity for growth and insight.

#6) The Magic Ratio:

The premise is that bad is stronger than good. According to John Gottman, relationship expert, the ratio of 5 to 1 is the measure of positive to negative interactions between partners. At this ratio, the couple is at relatively low risk for divorce. However, to rise from “conflicted couple” status to “happy couple” status the ratio must increase to 20 to 1 positive to negative interactions. A helpful exercise for therapists seeking to garner data on the state of the relationship, is to keep track of the couple’s positive to negative ratio. The clinical goal is “positive sentiment over ride” at a 20 to 1 ratio and the avoidance of “negative sentiment over ride.” These are two ways to “follow your heart and bring your brain with you.”

-Written by: Edward L. Oriole L.C.P.C. C.A.D.C. N.C.C.
-With contribution from Andrea Serrano