The “test” is called the five-to-one rule. If it is operating in your relationship, then you are probably a stable couple. It not, you could be in trouble.
The five-to-one rule states that for every negative interaction during a conflict, there are five positive ones to counteract the negative. Couples who evidenced this 5:1 ratio of positive to negative were less likely to divorce then couples who had an 8:1 ratio. For example, Tim and Sheila argued over a parenting issue. Tim criticized his wife during the conflict, but there were five positive statements to counterbalance the criticism. Because of this positive to negative ratio (5 to 1), Tim and his wife’s relationship remain stable and conflict doesn’t escalate to a negative point. Couples who do not have this positive affect during conflict were more likely to divorce.
So imagine a researcher standing over your shoulder and counting the number of positives to negatives during your couple interactions. Would you pass the test?
For more help on divorce proofing your marriage, I Married You, Not Your Family and nine other relationship myths by Dr. Linda Mintle