A Commitment to Relationship Excellence

The Relationship Workout assumes your goal is to have a sustainable, healthy relationship. You’re looking for lots of fun, laughter, sustainable great sex (I mean really great), peace, joy, and growing love with someone special. You care about being the best partner possible to your person.

Of course, over the span of months and years, every relationship will experience its share of ups and downs—no relationship can stay in Hollywood movie bliss 365 days a year until death do us part.

Real-World Challenges

For example, let’s say your girlfriend insists you spend a Sunday afternoon attacking that man pile of chores she’s thought up for you all week. Meanwhile, you’ve already warmed up the couch for an afternoon of watching your favorite fantasy football players in action. What do you do?

  • Do you just concede to her only to feel resentment the entire afternoon?
  • Do you dig your heels in and battle it out over the same argument you two seem to have Sunday after Sunday?
  • Does the argument escalate, bringing in other unresolved issues?
  • Are you two able to resolve your differences by finding some sort of compromise?
  • Do you wonder why you two seem so misaligned on what to do on Sundays in the first place?

The Reality of Relationship Issues

Fundamentally, all relationships have issues. No two people can possibly be aligned on 100% of everything 100% of the time. It’s impossible! Also, no one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. You will make mistakes. She will make mistakes. Plus, ordinary life will bring unexpected twists and turns to your daily life. Bottom line: You will have issues to deal with in your relationship—that’s a given. But how many issues are too many?

As John Gottman writes in Why Marriages Succeed or Fail:

“That magic ratio is 5 to 1. In other words, as long as there is five times as much positive feelings and interaction between husband and wife as there is negative … the marriage was likely to be stable.”

Five positive feelings to each negative one creates, on average, a stable relationship. I call this the fun-to-drama ratio. A stable relationship will have about five connected fun moments to each disconnected drama moment.

Fun vs. Drama Moments

You have some good sex—chalk that one up as a fun moment. You two chill playing some cards together—that’s likely another fun moment regardless of who won. You both do a hobby you both like to share or do something spontaneous like go for a hike—more fun moments. Fun moments are essentially any moment together that feels connected, drawing you closer to each other.

Drama moments are quite the opposite. They create disconnection, pushing you away from each other. Argue about just about anything and you’ve added drama moments. She nags at you for what seems like the 100th time about the same thing—that’s a drama moment. You give her the cold shoulder because you’re upset at her—that’s another drama moment. You get the picture: We all know what drama feels like.

Measuring Your Fun-to-Drama Ratio

If your fun-to-drama ratio is around five, then this gets a good, stable, average passing grade. If you were to give it a letter grade, then maybe you’re sitting at a C, C+, or B- as it’s good but there’s room for improvement. Now, if your fun-to-drama ratio is at ten or more—on average ten or more moments of fun to each moment of drama—then that’s a strong relationship. On the other end, if your fun-to-drama ratio is sitting at, say, one (one moment of fun for each moment of drama), then this is a weak place to be. After all, it’s going to be hard to stay connected if you’re having just as much fun as drama.

To help you track your fun-to-drama ratio, you can keep your Relationship Journal at RelationshipWorkout.com, where you mark each journal entry as fun or drama. Then you can look at your Relationship Journal Analytics to see your fun-to-drama ratio.

Commitment to Relationship Excellence

A commitment to Relationship Excellence implies you’re not interested in settling for just a “stable” relationship. You want to have fun! You don’t want to just tolerate each other or find yourself miserable. In fact, a commitment to Relationship Excellence implies a desire to do even better than the five-to-one fun-to-drama ratio. Why not strive for a ratio of ten to one, or a hundred to one, or even a thousand to one?

So how do you get started? First, acknowledge we all have strengths and weaknesses that drive our strong and weak behavior.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Everyone brings strengths and weaknesses to the table. Ultimately, these strengths and weaknesses will likely drive the quality of your relationship. For instance, let’s say there’s a major difference of opinion on the table. It’s a real doozy; she really wants this and you really want that.

If you approach her like a boxer entering the ring, boxing gloves on, looking to throw that knockout punch to have your point of view be victorious, then you’re very likely approaching the conversation from a place of relationship weakness. You talk over her—that’s weak. You get defensive as she shares her point of view—that’s weak too. You call her a bitch with angry spite—that’s extremely weak regardless of what nagging bitchiness she might be throwing your way.

The point is if one or both of you approach a difficult conversation from a place of relationship weakness, the likely result achieved will be time-consuming (and painful) negative drama.

On the other hand, if you both approach the conversation from a place of relationship strength, then it’s much more likely that the same issue on the table can get resolved relatively quickly and without drama. You stay curious and let her talk so you can understand her point of view—that’s strong. You stay open to hearing where she thinks you’re wrong—that’s strong too (even if ultimately you don’t agree with her). At the end of the conversation, you remind yourselves of the love you have for each other—that’s extremely strong as it reconfirms that differences in opinions won’t jeopardize the relationship.

Put simply, if the relationship strengths dominate the weaknesses, then positive fun experiences may prevail as you leave yourselves more time and desire to enjoy each other. On the other hand, if weaknesses dominate, then negative drama may become your drowning norm together.

Identifying Weaknesses

How do you identify what weaknesses you have that may contribute to increasing the drama in your intimate relationship? This is where the Relationship Workout program comes in, helping you discover how good your relationship is and identifying specific intentional actions you can take to help reduce the drama in your relationship—the topic of the next article.

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