In my Houston marriage counseling practice, I’m always looking for interesting articles about the psychology behind relationships. I read an interesting study recently that discussed how marriage researcher John Gottman recorded married couples’ conversations over entire weekends, then found the ratio of positive comments to negative comments. He found that a 5:1 ratio (five positive comments for every one critical comment) predicted a strong relationship, while fewer positive comments per critical ones predicted relationship issues.

Reading that study reinforced for me what I’m always encouraging my clients to do in Houston marriage counseling—open up an honest dialogue and verbalize the things you like about your partner. Positivity, as long as it’s genuine, goes a long way. Here are a few specific techniques you can use to apply positive psychology to your relationship.

Houston Marriage Counseling: Tips for Using Positive Psychology

Don’t just think it, say it. Have you ever thought that your partner looked particularly good one night, or recognized that your partner was being especially kind… But you didn’t tell them? Next time you think something nice about your partner, say it out loud. This will show your partner how much you appreciate them, and it will remind you to be more aware when your partner is doing something positive.

Don’t take the little things for granted. Maybe your partner’s been cooking your favorite dinner every Tuesday night for the past 20 years, but you’ve never thought to say anything, because it’s such a regular occurrence. Well, say something next time to show how much this little gesture of love means to you. Your partner may be pleasantly surprised by this acknowledgement.

If you must request a change, make it constructive and caring. Before blurting out a negative comment about your partner, think it through. End all criticism, including ‘constructive’ criticism, because it’s negative.  All criticism is Self-criticism.  

A complaint kindly stated is more effective and connecting. How does your disappointed/angry/sad feeling connect to an unmet need of yours?

There’s nothing wrong with some constructive feedback in a relationship, because you certainly wouldn’t want to hold back something that’s upsetting you. That could lead to bigger relationship issues. However, make sure that your comments are genuinely meant to build your relationship.  

Make relationship requests SMART

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant to your unmet need
  • Time-limited (ideally, done within a couple weeks)

Let your partner know how these behavior changes could help you feel better – rather than just saying something to hurt your partner because you’re tired or angry. 

When they do fulfill a specific request of yours, you may be amazed at how good it can feel. Tell them that, too! Use appreciation to build them up for making an effort. 

Are you interested in learning more about positive psychology and how it can help your relationship? Visit Houston marriage counseling, and I’d be happy to talk to you and your partner about the subject.