Jan 17 / Simcha

The Mathematics of Love (J. Brody)

potionHealth writer Jane Brody reminds us in a recent posting (That Loving Feelings Takes a Lot of Work, 1.14.2013)  to her NYTimes Personal Health blog of the power of positive comments and gestures.  Although negative comments clearly serve us well in keeping us out of danger and correcting undesirable actions, balancing them with the right amount of positive comments can keep a relationship flourishing.  The following is a selection from her longer piece… a nice reminder!


Even a marriage that has been marred by negative, angry or hurtful remarks can often be rescued by filling the home with words and actions that elicit positive emotions, psychology research has shown.

According to studies by Barbara L. Fredrickson, a social psychologist and professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a flourishing relationship needs three times as many positive emotions as negative ones. In her forthcoming book, Love 2.0, Dr. Fredrickson says that cultivating positive energy everyday “motivates us to reach out for a hug more often or share and inspiring or silly idea or image.”

Dr. Lyubomirsky reports that happily married couples average five positive verbal and emotional expressions toward one another for every negative expression, but “very unhappy couples display ratios of less than one to one.”

To help get your relationship on a happier track, the psychologist suggests keeping a diary of positive and negative events that occur between you and your partner, and striving to increase the ratio of positive to negative.

She suggests asking yourself each morning, “What can I do for five minutes today to make my partner’s life better?” The simplest acts, like sharing an amusing event, smiling, or being playful, can enhance marital happiness.