Are They Gonna Get Divorced? Do the Math
It All Adds Up: Mathematical Model Shows Which Couples Will Divorce –Source: Newswise, February 12, 2004. “There are no general laws of human relationships as there are for physics, but a leading marital researcher and group of applied mathematicians have teamed up to create a mathematical model that predicts which couples will divorce with astonishing accuracy. The model holds promise of giving therapists new tools for helping couples overcome patterns of interaction that can send them rushing down the road toward divorce. Psychologist John Gottman and applied mathematicians James D. Murray and Kristin Swanson will describe how the model was developed and how it enables Gottman to predict with 94 percent accuracy which couples will divorce after viewing just the first few moments of a conversation about an area of martial contention. They will discuss their work today at a press briefing during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle.”
The key turned out to be quantifying the ratio of positive to negative interactions during the talk. The magic ratio is 5 to 1, and a marriage can be in trouble when it falls below this. The mathematical model charts this interaction into what the researchers call a “Dow-Jones Industrial Average for marital conversation.”
“When the masters of marriage are talking about something important, they may be arguing, but they are also laughing and teasing and there are signs of affection because they have made emotional connections,” Gottman said. “But a lot of people don’t know how to connect or how to build a sense of humor, and this means a lot of fighting that couples engage in is a failure to make emotional connections. We wouldn’t have known this without the mathematical model.