We know a couple who split up last week. He said he was done. Moved out. Just like that.
She was shocked. She had no idea he was close to leaving. He said he wanted to find another woman – someone who wouldn’t criticize him.
It happened so fast. She is now unexpectedly a single woman, living on her own with chickens, garden, bills …
Most people don’t know that … every relationship has a Tipping Point.
We call it the Point of No Return.
Where everyday dissatisfactions turns into “I’m done!”
John Gottman, a researcher on couples and marriage found that happy couples have a 5:1 ratio between positive interactions and negative interactions. That is, for every criticism and negative interactions (verbal and non-verbal) there has to be at least 5 compliments and positive interactions.
The positive interactions build up what Gottman calls The Reservoir of Positive Feeling. The reservoir of positive feeling is like a savings account into which you are making regular deposits to be withdrawn on a rainy day. Couples who have reservoirs of positive feelings can dip into this reservoir when they are criticized to offset their hurt feelings and balance things out.
Gottman came to realize that he could predict with near certainty within 15 minutes of meeting a couple, whether or not their marriage would last. All he had to do was notice their positive and negative interactions.
Most couples that reach the Tipping Point have had more negative interactions than positive for some time. On the one hand, one partner may be surprised when the other calls it quits; but on the other hand, it is no surprise at all if unhappiness, complaint and dissatisfaction have been the norm for months or years.
According to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri, 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce.
We all need love, touch and positivity in our lives. In this day and age, where divorce is relatively easy and commonplace, when we feel despairing, in pain and hopeless enough, many of us will choose to leave our partners in search of a better experience.
But as the above stats abundantly illustrate, when you choose a second marriage as the remedy to fix the first one, the odds are very much against you (sure, they’re just odds, not set in stone, but still…)
So how do you know if you are close to the Tipping Point?
Here is a partial list of what to look for, to know whether or not you may be approaching the point of no return. These are common signs of a distressed relationship:
You have the same fights over and over again You spend more time bickering and fighting than getting along You sleep apart You rarely have sex or don’t have sex at all You are living in silence You live more like roommates than intimate lovers You are not affectionate, you rarely touch You don’t appreciate each other verbally You don’t feel like giving to your partner Your interactions are more negative than positive You spend very little time together You don’t feel like your needs are getting met Your interactions are wrought with complaint, blame and criticism You have nothing to talk about when you are together You spend little or no quality time together You feel unhappy, depressed, angry, hurt, sad, hopeless and lonely much of the time You secretly think about leaving You have had, are having, or are thinking about having an affair You talk about divorcing or leaving when you fight If you experience any of these in your relationship, your relationship is distressed and sliding towards the Tipping Point.
So how do you prevent your relationship from reaching the Tipping Point?
The bad news is that relationships do not get better by themselves. On the contrary – they get worse.
You need to learn new communication skills and develop more effective relationship practices if you are to turn the tide and save your marriage.
The good news is that is absolutely doable. It is a very rare relationship or marriage that is beyond repair. We can’t tell you how many couples we’ve worked with who thought they were “unfixable”, but still turned it around.
So get help. Get support.
Relationship Training. Coaching. Therapy. Something. Anything…
More good news is there’s nothing wrong with you, nothing wrong with your partner and nothing wrong with your relationship. There’s just something wrong with how you DO relationship.
And it’s no wonder. Most of us have NEVER taken a relationship class.
So don’t let yourself get shocked, like our friend was. A nasty little secret about the Tipping Point is you only realize it in retrospect; that is, when it’s too late. Pay attention to the list of signals we mentioned above, and that sounds like your relationship, take on the project of learning some new skills and practices for love. You totally can! And in case you haven’t noticed, loveworksforyou.com is a great place to start!
And go listen to our free audio on “Stop Bickering Like Kids And Communicate As Loving Adults“