It Takes More Than Love

Ah love! It’s at the very core of our being. It’s who we are at the purest and most basic level of our humanness. And what better day to celebrate this than Valentine’s Day? It’s an opportunity to honor the people you’re closest to and particularly to acknowledge your love for that special someone. Yet as anyone who has been in a relationship knows, it definitely takes more than love. What else does it take to make a relationship work? How do you go through the trials and tribulations of a relationship and come out still bonded in your love?

Though my present work as an author, soul healer, and spiritual teacher has a different focus, I’ve been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Psychotherapist since 1975 and had a very successful private practice. In addition to my own experiences in relationships (the good, bad, and the ugly!), I’ve read several books and attended several workshops that added to my skills and knowledge, both personally and professionally.

Although all these contributed something to my understanding, the most sensible guidelines I found came out of the University of Washington, from a researcher named Dr. John Gottman. His approach was not just intellectual or philosophical, but his conclusions were based on his long-term research with a wide range of ordinary couples. In his “love lab” he studied partners heart rates, facial expressions, and how they interacted with each another. One of the main factors in the couples’ interactions with one another was the ratio of positive moments to negative moments. Gottman and his researchers found that when the ratio of positive to negative moments was consistently 5 to 1 or greater (some couples were as high as 30 to 1), even while discussing problems, it indicated a strong marriage that would very likely endure. If the ratio dropped to 1 to 1 or less, they were able to predict with an astounding 90% accuracy that these couples would not be together after three years! He also noted that even when the positive moments greatly surpassed the negative, the “1″ in the ratio was just as important.

Although these findings were highly significant, Gottman concluded that there were other important ingredients that supported a strong foundation for the marital relationship. These principles can be useful for any two people, married or not, trying to navigate the waters of their relationship. Here are some of those principles gleaned from his years of research that helps keep vitality and meaning in your relationship.

Keep high standards – The most successful couples refused to accept hurtful behavior from one another right from the beginning and as a result were generally happier.

Seek help early – The average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems! Since half of all marriages that end do so in the first seven years, the sooner you get help the more likely those problems can be resolved.

Edit yourself - Know what not to say and when not to say it! Those couples who are happiest hold back on saying every critical thought, especially when discussing sensitive topics.

Soften your “start up” – Bring up problems gently and without blaming your partner. When a spouse makes a critical or contemptuous remark in a confrontational tone, it’s likely to “start up” an argument. It’s especially critical to be gentle with each other during re-entry, when a couple first come together after being apart for any length of time, such as after work or first thing in the morning.

Learn to repair and exit the argument - Happy couples know how to repair an argument and move on before it gets completely out of control. Examples of repair attempts include: 1) changing the topic to something completely unrelated 2) using humor 3) stating you understand your partner’s feelings or opinion 4) finding and stating ways you are on common ground. If an argument gets too heated, each one take a 20-minute time out and agree to approach the topic again when you are both calm.

Be Willing to Accept Influence (for men) – A marriage succeeds to the extent that a husband can accept influence from his wife, which is challenging for a lot of men because of our egos. A husband’s ability to be influenced by his wife (rather than vice-versa) is crucial because research shows women are already well practiced at accepting influence from men, and a true partnership only occurs when a husband can do so as well.

Yet even in all of this, remember to keep your love alive showing it frequently and creatively in as many ways as possible!



Mark R.
Past Member 5 years ago

Noted, now I just got to find that special someone to use those tips on...sigh.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal G5 years ago


Chinmayee Jog
Chinmayee Jog5 years ago

Thanks for sharing, great article! I found the love lab and the ratios quite interesting, I think it's a test every couple should sign up for :)

Claire V.
Claire Vickery5 years ago

I think it's especially important to 'edit yourself', or in other words, be mindful with your speech. I notice if I criticise loved ones too much or at the wrong time (ie when angry), it only makes the situation worse. I think firstly we need to edit our thoughts, or just let most of them come and go without having to suddenly make a comment we might regret. I don't mean that we should be suppressed, I just mean that the bulk of our thoughts tend to be quite critical and it helps to be awake to that.

Marianne Barto
Marianne B5 years ago


Sian R.
Sian R5 years ago

Jane B - sounds like you've had/are having a rough time of it. Take heart, there ARE good men (and women) out there. And when you hit rock-bottom, unless you prefer to wallow in it, there's only one eay to go and that's up.

I'm not just speaking weasel words. I've been there. And was lucky enough, after being deserted by the psychpath I lived with for 20 years, to meet the most wonderful man ever, who turned my life around. Even his death, four years later and fourteen years ago, couldn't diminish the love he gave me, the love he taught me. And, since then, it's just grown and grown.

Maybe it's true that you have to 'work' at love. The difference is, when you love it does't feel like work. All it takes is for one truly mature person to love you - and for you to accept that love and return it from YOUR heart.
The next step is to truly see your own worth; that you are beautiful beyind compare (as is everyone) under all the crap we've accumulated during our lives..
The final step is to work at removing that crap we and others, have stuck on ourselves.
Then - and only then - can you see what love is.
It's beautiful and it's not a myth.

Tahni W5 years ago

I like this. I'd also really like it if, when my spouse exits an argument through changing the subject, humor or walking away, he would leave the option for further discussion at a later time. As it is now, we rarely finish an argument...he seems happy with this arrangement and I am stuck holding on to the destructiveness of non-communication.

Andrea A.
Andrea A5 years ago


andrew h.
- -5 years ago


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Richard R.
Richard R5 years ago

The problem with love is that we only give it to people we know. And for the most part, romantic love is selfish. Jealousy anyone? Power struggles? One day a year to celebrate one's relationship? What a joke!