You’re meeting your bestie for brunch and after catching up about your weekend and placing your order for eggs, she asks you about your spouse. How’s Jeff doing these days? Do you a) tell her about his new promotion at work, b) complain about his long hours or c) recount this morning’s argument where he forgot to put his dishes away yet again?
This, friends, is the brag test. Coined by Nate Klemp, Ph.D. and Kaley Klemp, co-authors of The 80/80 Marriage: A New Model for a Happier, Stronger Relationship, the couple says that you can use this simple test to quickly and effectively assess the health of your marriage.
“When you're talking about your partner in front of other people—friends, work colleagues, or family members—do you most often complain, criticize, or insult them or do you mostly brag about them, praising their accomplishments, best qualities, and strengths?” they write in Psychology Today.
If you mostly wax lyrical about your partner in front of others, then kudos—you’re passing the brag test with flying colors. If, on the other hand, you often criticize, complain or insult your partner when talking about them to other people, “that’s a pretty good sign that you may be sitting on a time bomb of uncleared issues, disappointments, and resentment,” say the authors.
But let’s be real—most of us fall somewhere in the middle. You love to brag about your partner sometimes (she ran a half marathon after training for months—of course you’re going to post about it on the ‘gram!) and you love to complain about them sometimes (like when you’re having dinner with your mom friends and everyone’s moaning about the mental load). Good news: You don’t have to only boast about your S.O. in order to have a happy and healthy relationship.
The Klemps refer to marriage researcher and therapist John Gottman and what he identified as the “magic ratio” of marriage. Specifically, Dr. Gottman found that happy couples experience at least five or more positive interactions for every one negative interaction. Meaning, disagreements, complaining and moaning can still be on the table in a successful relationship—so long as you sprinkle some positivity in there too.
“When [couples in happy marriages] are talking about something important,” Dr. Gottman says, “they may be arguing, but they are also laughing and teasing and there are signs of affection because they have made emotional connections.”
So, back to the brag test—let’s say you talk about your spouse to other people five times today. Are you mostly singing their praises or are you mostly complaining about them? If it’s the latter, then it could be a sign to examine your feelings about the relationship and talk about what’s bothering you with your partner and/or a licensed professional.