Updated: Mar 20
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, a garden, bills. Most people don’t know that every relationship has a “Tipping Point”, a point of no return, when everyday dissatisfactions turn into “I’m done!”
John Gottman, a world renowned 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 Reservoir Of Positive Feeling
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 The reservoir of positive feeling is like a savings account into which you are making regular deposits to be withdrawn on a rainy day.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 feel criticized to offset their hurt feelings and balance things out.
In some of the studies they conducted on couples, Gottman’s team discovered that this ratio was one of the most important factors in their ability to predict with almost 100% certainty which marriages would last and which would fail.
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 if unhappiness, complaint and dissatisfaction have been the norm for months or years.
We all need love, touch and positivity in our lives. In this day and age, where divorce is commonplace, when we feel despairing or hopeless enough, many of us will choose to leave our partners in search of a better experience.
Divorce stats tell us that first time marriages end in divorce between 40-50% of the time. Second and third marriages have even higher divorce rates. As those numbers illustrate, when you choose a second marriage as the remedy to fix the first one, the odds are very much against you.
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Am I Close To The Tipping Point?
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 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 could be sliding towards the Tipping Point. So how do you prevent your relationship from reaching the Tipping Point? In a word: Intervention!
Relationship’s Don’t Get Better By Themselves
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 it’s 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. You might do …
Relationship skills training.
Self-Study relationship courses.
You can contact us for any of these options.
When your marriage turns sour it’s tempting to conclude there’s something wrong with you or your partner. But more likely, there’s something wrong with how you relate and communicate, and that can be worked on. If you still have a desire to repair your relationship, and if you still care for each other, there are lots of different interventions you can choose. So don’t lose hope just yet!
Don’t let yourself be shocked, like our friend was. A nasty little secret about the Tipping Point is that you only realize it in retrospect; that is, when it’s too late. Pay attention to the list of signals we mentioned above, and if that sounds like your relationship, take on the project of learning some new skills and practices for love. You can do it!
There are lots of free resources on our website, and you can contact us out for coaching and advice. On our podcast, we have a great 3-part foundational series of common issues in relationship and what do to about it. Start with #1 about how we inadvertently get more of what we don’t want in our relationships.
LoveWorks: We believe relationships are meant to be an empowering, fun, passionate, safe place to grow, love, and learn. Where we get to be more of who we are, not less. We know it’s not always easy, but it can definitely be easier! With our unique and practical approach to relationship, you learn how to resolve conflicts quickly and enjoy fulfilling intimacy for the rest of your life. To learn more or contact us, visit www.loveworkssolution.com.