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Monday, December 17 , 2018, 2:17 am | Fair 52º


Russell Collins: Transform Your Relationship in One Simple Step

It's quick, it's easy and it's free

You say you want a relationship that’s loving and warm? You say you want to do away with arguing and fighting? You say you want the relationship you’ve always dreamed of — now?! Then, please, read on.

I have a program — scientifically proven, of course — to bring you the relationship you desire. But before I tell you how to go about getting your perfect relationship, I’d like to introduce you to a few individuals who have tried this proven technique, and let you hear it straight from their mouths.

Did I say “individuals who have tried this technique”? You heard me right. This technique is so powerful, it doesn’t even require that both partners employ it! Either member of the couple, acting alone, can transform the relationship using this simple program. In fact, it’s even more powerful with just one!

John C. had this to say: “Using Russell’s technique, I transformed my relationship from boring and cold to warm and wonderful in just one month! It was amazing.”

Marianne J. raved: “We had grown distant over the years. Other than our children, we had little in common. It wasn’t fun to spend time together. Now I love to be with Barry. And just this week, he told me I’m the light of his life!”

Jo Anne W. wrote these words: “We argued all the time. Honestly, it was hardly worth it anymore. We were considering divorce. Now we are looking forward to a lifetime of happiness.”

How can you bring this kind of happiness and satisfaction to your relationship? Simple. But before I give you the simple, free five-to-one technique itself, let me tell you a story.

Back in the early 1980s, researcher John Gottman brought the study of couples into the modern age. Using computerized physiological data-gathering and video technology for monitoring, recording and analyzing couple’s interactions, Gottman made some surprising discoveries about couples. Looking back on his work more recently, Gottman wrote, “Amazingly, we have found that it all comes down to a simple mathematical formula: No matter what style your marriage, you must have at least five times as many positive as negative moments if your marriage is to be stable.” This formula of five positive interactions to every negative one has been vetted by other researchers since, and folded by Gottman and others into programs for couple healing.

Wait. So that’s it? Five-to-one and my marriage is off the rocks and sailing smooth? No seminars? No videos? Nothing to buy? C’mon, Russell. What’s the catch?

OK, there is a small catch. The offer is real: There is abundant research demonstrating not only the empirical fact that a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative messages and interactions are characteristic of a good relationship, but, far more importantly, that most troubled relationships will be stabilized and improved if couples consciously create a positive balance of interactions.

The catch is that, even when couples set out to do this, they often quickly lose momentum and fall back into old patterns. The problem is not that the concept is flawed; it’s that couples aren’t motivated to follow through. How come? Let’s do an experiment.

Imagine that, beginning tomorrow, you accept my offer to practice five-to-one in your relationship. You agree to carry it out for four weeks, in order to start seeing results. As you think about this now, which of the following concerns is uppermost in your mind?

» A) What If it doesn’t work? I’ll be so disappointed.

» B) What if it doesn’t work? what a waste of time and energy!

» C) What if I go all out giving five-to-one, and get shut down in return? I couldn’t bear it.

» D) What if I go all out giving five-to-one, but only get one-to-five in return?

» E) We’ve tried this kind of thing. We start out strong, but then we forget, or it just runs out of gas.

If you answered “A,” congratulations. Here is my money-back guarantee: You will not come out of these four weeks one penny, one jot, one ounce worse off than you went in. In fact, your fear of disappointment is a sign you are still deeply invested in the relationship; your chances of achieving a better relationship are good. Go for it!

If you answered “B,” I make the same guarantee, plus, for a limited time only: Even if you produce no good outcome, you will have checked off the box that says, “I gave it five-to one.” You know more about your relationship now, which will be valuable as you go into your future.

If you answered “C,” there may be some extra good news. You may have some challenges of assertiveness in this relationship. If feeling powerless is an issue you are dealing with anyway, there may be some extra effort required, but there may also be a double win in store for you. If the relationship begins to flourish — if you find yourself happier in it — you can take this as evidence of your positive power in the relationship. You have taken a leadership role. You are the engine of change. And it’s working!

If you answered “D,” well, sorry. You may not be qualified for my special offer. You are in the bargaining phase of the relationship.

If it’s any consolation, you are not alone. Bargaining, or keeping score, is the bane of couple relationships everywhere. Relationship advisers have been exhorting troubled couples since the Stone Age:  Just be nice to each other, and your problems will disappear. Gottman’s research shows that for most couples, this is good advice. Be nice, do nice things, be caring and loving rather than mean to each other and — voila! — a good relationship will be produced.

But being nice can founder mortally on the rocks of bargaining and keeping score. In fact, serious relationship counselors once relied heavily on a technique called quid pro quo (roughly, one for me, one for you) in which couples contract to do good things for each other a certain number of times per day. The idea was that my good deed would lead to your good deed in an ever spiraling cycle of goodwill.

Behavioral contracts like these went out of fashion some time ago: They just didn’t work. There are many theories about why this might be, but one reason certainly is that they invite keeping score. Which is why I must qualify my offer to you. Five-to-one can absolutely transform your relationship — especially your relationship — if and only if you can give up keeping score.

This will not be easy. Scorekeeping is in our genes, as I talked about in an earlier article. But it just may be ruining your relationship, and giving it up will be a double win for you.

Which leads me to the final option in the list. If you answered “E,” welcome to the club. This is why quid pro quo so often failed to produce the desired result. It’s also why this article is written to emphasize the incredible, once-in-a-lifetime bargain you get with five-to-one. I believe the failure of quid pro quo has to do with our unconscious predisposition to monitor for fairness in every interaction.

The famously effective couple therapist Don Jackson of the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto theorized that, in distressed couples especially, almost every interaction is, as he put it, “an unconscious effort from both partners to assure themselves that they are equals, they are peers.”

How does this work? You tell me to hose down the drive; I feel tired or sick, or I put it off, then forget.

Modern neuroscience tells us we don’t have to engage the conscious, thinking parts of our brain to participate in this dance: The primitive, reactive, power-conscious parts of our brain (especially that new celebrity of brain parts, the amygdala) have direct links to brain areas controlling memory, attention, mood, energy and attitude. No wonder I forgot to hose down the drive.

But what if the quid pro quo is not between partners, but between you and gods of good fortune and happiness? And what if you are guaranteed to win big with every interaction? Even a greedy, cranky amygdala could go for a bargain like that.

Which brings me back to my once-in-a-lifetime offer. What do you have to put up to be a winner in this deal? Here is good list of positive interactions, again, drawn from Gottman’s research.

» You are willing to suffer a few slings and arrows of disappointment or hurt.

» You are willing to recontextualize your partner’s failings as evidence of her disappointment and hurt, rather than unforgivable flaws of character. You wear rose-colored glasses.

» You are willing to show interest in what he is saying, even if it takes some effort. And not because it’s the right thing to do (your amygdala despises the word “should”). You’re in this to get back more than you put in — way more.

» You are willing to practice random acts of affection — even when it’s embarrassing.

» You are willing to do the little things you know she wants, even when you don’t want to. Hosing down the driveway, for instance.

» You are willing to show appreciation for his efforts, good intentions, good qualities and the good moments you have shared in the relationship. When in doubt, go with gratitude.

» Show concern when your partner is in pain, or in trouble.

» Be empathic. “I know how that must feel.”

» Be accepting. (Arrgh. I feel an urge to criticize her. I let it go instead.)

» Be funny. Inject humor into the relationship.

» Share your joy. Whenever possible.

This is the bargain of five-to-one. It’s pretty much risk-free, and the outcome can be a jackpot for you. Act now. You’ll be glad you did.

— Russell Collins, Psy.D., is a Santa Barbara psychotherapist and divorce mediator. Click here for more information.

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