What's the No. 1 reason romantic relationships break up?
Recently divorced singles blame a lack of communication, says Chrisanna Northrup, co-author of "The Normal Bar."
What do the happiest couples find most fulfilling about their relationship? Great communication.
"We all need to be heard and understood," says Northrup. In many cases, she adds, people who are asked if they communicate well will say they do; when asked if their partner communicates well, they'll say no.
A technique developed by "The Normal Bar" authors, which they call High Five, helps couples break through faulty communication to establish a happier "normal."
1. Find a relaxed setting without distractions, such as dinner out without children. Agree to listen with full attention.
2. Each partner writes the top five things, not including spouse or children, he or she needs to be happy.
3. One partner shares his list in full. The other listens without speaking. Then switch roles. Each person must acknowledge and respect each other's individual passions. No interrupting, negotiating, arguing or denying.
4. Next, individually prioritize the top five things each of you needs from each other to be happy.
5. One partner goes first, this time telling just his No. 1 request.
6. Without responding to the request just expressed, the other describes her top request.
7. Both negotiate a deal, through trading and compromise, that allows each to meet the other's request. Don't criticize your partner's request.
8. Repeat the process for the remaining four requests on each list.
9. Listen with an open mind, beware of defensive reactions, and don't phrase a request as a complaint.
Northrup used High Five in her marriage, and found it life-changing. "You assume you know what your partner wants," she says, "but unless you talk about it specifically, you don't know. It's eye-opening."
Relationships by the numbers
78% of men surveyed who said they were mildly unhappy to happy said they sometimes hide from their partners.
86% of respondents reported being intrigued by the prospect of having kinky sex.
93% of men said they would risk their lives to save a partner — even in a bad relationship.
78% of gay men and women said their partners do a great job of communicating.
56% of people said they rarely or never kiss passionately.
— From "The Normal Bar," by Chrisanna Northrup, Pepper Schwartz and James Witte