Successful Marriages Are Those That…

Successful Marriages Are Those That… This is a topic that I could write a great many things about and make many points. However, I choose to focus on a few points that I have found are very important. John Gottman is understood to be the world's leading expert in marriage and marital research from the University of Washington. For decades he and his research team have been studying couples in his "Love Lab": his research facility to video tape, record, and track and code behavioral interactions between couples. With this information, Dr. Gottman and his crew crunch the statistics and make predictions about couples. And after following up with the same couples years later, he has demonstrated with a high degree of accuracy a number of fascinating findings about couples, a few of which will be reviewed in this brief article.

Positives Versus Negatives

A key finding from the Gottman Institute is that independent of a couple's communication style--volatile, validating, and permissive--any of these styles
can be indicative of whether a marriage is strong or weak. Beyond communication style, John Gottman found that couples who demonstrate a ratio of 5 or more positive interactions together for every 1 negative interactions make for strong, lasting marriages. Positive interactions can be a lot of things, such as affection, appreciation, thanks, compliments, smiles, supportive listening, agreement, collaboration, and so on.

The negatives that also ideally need to be minimized are mainly four things, which Gottman refers to as the "4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse": criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling (withdrawal). To the degree to which these kinds of negative interactions occur too often (more often than once for every 5 times positives occur), the strain on the marriage is great and such couples over time are at a great risk for eventual divorce.

Complaints Versus Criticism

Another finding is that less negativity occurs when complaints occur among couples instead of criticisms. A complaint is where one spouse says a specific thing they have a problem with, whereas a criticism is more of a global put down that puts down the other spouse in some kind of a personal manner. Complaints more often lead to effective conflict resolution, whereas criticism often leads to defensiveness, contempt, and withdrawal from the other spouse.

Therefore, marriages where criticisms occur on a regular basis often kick start cycles of attacks and counter-attacks that strain the marriage and accumulate mutual resentment, contention, and other bad feelings. Such strain tears apart couples and threaten the possible ending of the marriages.


In sum, increasing positive interactions and minimizing negatives to get to the golden 5-1+ ratio is the key to a happy, successful, lasting marriage. And when negative subjects are to discussed and conflict is attempted to be resolved, respectful, civil, specific complaints provide a better ability to minimize bad feelings (vs. criticisms). Conversely, personal attacks in the form of criticisms/global put downs tear apart marriages over time.

A marriage will have a much better chance of succeeding when both sides are careful how they talk to each other and treat each other. So please, when dating, getting engaged, and starting a life together as a new married couples, be careful. Treat each other with civility, respect, consideration, and sensitivity. Remember the words to the classic hymn, "Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words":

Let us oft speak kind words to each other
At home or where'er we may be;
Like the warblings of birds on the heather,
The tones will be welcome and free.
They'll gladden the heart that's repining,
Give courage and hope from above,
And where the dark clouds hide the shining,
Let in the bright sunlight of love.

Because "…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:11).

Dr. G
**To readers: to submit a question to Dr. G for a future Q and A column, please send your questions to Also, please register for a free account at for access to previous and future Dr. G articles.

2017-05-07 Randy Gilchrist Healthy relationships, Marriage preparation

Previous article Next article

About the author

Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (, practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at; email me questions to