Yesterday Ben and I got into an argument. Right as things started getting heated, I felt the urge. I tried to bite it back, not wanting Ben to feel patronized, but it came: my goofy grin.
Naturally, it ticked Ben off. He went to the kitchen to cool off while I went to our bedroom to get rid of that dang smile. Within a few minutes we were sitting on the couch having a more civil discussion. Later that evening, we giggled over the whole event.
I am happy to admit that I am not the only one who does this. Ben also smiles when things get tense. When I see him smile, I start to smile and then we both end up in fits of laughter on the couch.
Really, the worst time to smile is right in the middle of an argument, right? I don’t think so. That is, I don’t think Gottman thinks so.
Disclaimer: If you didn’t know this already, I am a big fan of Gottman. When I think about marriage relationships, his research is generally at the forefront of my mind. He is like my shoulder angel (in marriage, that is).
In his research, Gottman was able to quantify his observations and turn them into a mathematical model. One of the fascinating results he found was the magical 5 to 1 ratio. Happily married couples generally have five positive interactions to one negative interaction. When a couple consistently dips below that magical number (meaning more negative than positive interactions) they are in danger.
Keeping this in mind reminds me that Ben and I have a built-in safety monitor in our relationship. Neither of us enjoys conflict–especially with each other; thus, when our arguments are getting out of hand, we turn to our safety net: humor.
Ben’s responsibilities plus my responsibilities are very overwhelming. What keeps our relationship strong is our ability to laugh. This doesn’t mean we don’t tackle the tough issues, it means that we can approach those issues without either of us becoming too defensive. At least most of the time.
I think next time, though, I will try to hold my goofy grin in until after the serious part is over.