Portland Marriage Counselor: Use Math To Make Your Relationship Last

July 29, 2015 by

If you’re like me – or most people, I imagine – math probably doesn’t make you think about love. In fact, I would go so far as to say that love and mathematics are two entirely distinct worlds for the vast majority of us. If there’s crossover, it’s because the mere mention of either subject could make your palms sweat in high school.

But this isn’t the case for Hannah Fry, a math-lover who works at the UCL Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis in London. In her 2014 TED talk and recent book The Mathematics of Love, Fry suggests that the success of a loving relationship can be predicted with a simple mathematical formula.

Fry’s book is a study of the work of psychologist John Gottman and his team. For many years, Gottman researched hundreds of couples as they interacted with each other. Gottman made note of factors like facial expressions, blood pressure, and words the couple used. They used the collected data to analyze what made a relationship “high-risk” (likely to end soon) or “low-risk” (likely to last a long time).

What was their number one factor that predicted longevity? The researchers believed it lay in the couple’s interpretations of their own day-to-day interactions. Hannah Fry explains: “In relationships where both partners consider themselves as happy, bad behavior is dismissed as unusual. … In negative relationships, however, the situation is reversed. Bad behavior is considered the norm.”

Couples in low-risk relationships might attribute their partner’s bad behavior to an external factor, such as their partner having a bad day. In contrast, couples in high-risk relationships might attribute the same behavior to internal factors, like their partner’s inherent selfishness.

Gottman worked with mathematician James Murray to gain insight into the mechanisms that drive positive and negative interactions. Their goal was to predict whether a conversation between a man and a wife will begin to take a turn in a positive or a negative direction. It’s not just limited to husbands and wives, either. The equation is supposed to work just as well for unmarried and same sex couples.

Care to take a look at the formula to see how you and your partner stack up? Click here for the equation and an in-depth description of the math and science behind it.

What the Math Tells Us – and What We Tell the Math

If you’ve submitted your own relationship strength to the above equation and found your interactions less than ideal, I encourage you not to lose hope. I do not believe that the insights gained from Gottman’s work and Fry’s analysis stand as definitive proof of whether a relationship will succeed or fail.

Instead, I look at the information they provide as tools that can be used to mend and strengthen any relationship. Isolating and eliminating the negative elements of your day-to-day interactions with your partner is a crucial step to improving the future prognosis of your relationship. The same is true for acknowledging and increasing the positive elements.

Whatever your relationship “score” is, you can always benefit from a visit to a Portland marriage counselor. Contact the Portland Relationship Center for more information.