Money in the Bank


For any relationship to thrive, the positive must outweigh the negative.

Sounds pretty obvious, even commonplace, doesn’t it? But what follows from it is not always recognized. Most people who want to improve a relationship focus on trying to fix the negative — a worthy goal, no doubt.

What they often forget is the other half of the equation: increasing the positives in the relationship. Psychologist John Gottman‘s research establishes the importance of increasing positivity in a marriage (and this applies not just to marriages, but to relationships with co-workers, bosses, siblings, and friends).

Obviously, if a relationship has more positives, it is more rewarding and less stressful for both parties, and is more likely to thrive. In addition, increasing the positives is usually more in your control than reducing negatives. Many negatives cannot be “fixed,” so often the best you can do is learn to accept and deal with them so that their impact is reduced. But you can begin to increase positivity immediately in many ways, for example by choosing to focus on your partner’s good qualities, noticing and expressing appreciation for what they are doing (instead of complaining about what they are not doing) , spending time together in an activity you both enjoy, or talking about something you agree on, such as a project you are both excited about.

Once you do begin to increase the positives, you become more able to weather the storms of negativity when they arise. If you have an essentially negative view, even a small thoughtless comment can turn into an indictment. If you have an essentially positive view of your partner and relationship, when they are short with you, you are less likely to react negatively and escalate to conflict. You assume they are having a bad day or that they are in a rush, and you don’t take it personally. Gottman calls this “positive sentiment override.” Positive interactions are like money in the bank.

So think of a relationship in your life and make a deposit.