Everyone has heard the statistics that one out of two marriages will end in divorce. What couples want to know is how to prevent their marriages from being one of the two that does.
On Care2.com yesterday, Dr. John Gottman, a marriage & family therapist and prominent marriage researcher, shared the results of forty years of research and study on why marriages fail. According to Gottman, he’s identified six key things regarding a couples’ communication that predict divorce. He says that his research allows him to predict with a staggering 91% accuracy which marriages will fail.
Here are the six marriage communication characteristics that he’s identified as being leading indicators that your marriage will fail:
1. Harsh start-ups.
Approaching a conversation or conflict with sarcasm, accusations, criticism or derogatory comments is dangerous for a marriage. Initiating a conversation harshly will likely result in an acrimonious ending without resolution.”
Take a look at your last few discussions. Did they start with insults, accusations or snark? If so, how could the issue have been approached in a more constructive way?
2. The four horsemen.
This is what Gottman has named contempt, criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling. His research shows a direct connection between these characteristics of communication and an increased chance of divorce.
Do you or your spouse have a tendency to go on the defensive or put up walls when certain topics are brought up?
Gottman describes this as when you and/or your spouse overwhelm each other with negativity, which causes an emotional shut-down.
When you or your partner suddenly barrages the other with criticism or contempt, leaving the other feeling shell shocked, this results in disengagement and often, over time, leads to contempt.”
One way to avoid this, aside from remaining positive and constructive when discussing an issue, is to stick to the issue at hand. Don’t go from bickering about taking out the trash to everything that’s irritated or angered you in the last month.
4. Body language.
According to Gottman,
When one or both partners become overwhelmed and flooded, it results in physiological changes in the body. Increased heart rate, a secretion of adrenaline and an increase in blood pressure occur and these physiological responses preclude the ability to effectively resolve conflict. Flooding triggers a fight or flight response, resulting in disengagement and/or stonewalling by your partner.”
In other words, once you or your partner starts feeling these physical signs of flooding, constructive discussion is probably
impossible. Learn to spot the signs that it’s time to take a break.
5. Failed attempts to repair.
If conflicts aren’t resolved as they come up, the likelihood of divorce increases. Resolving conflict is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship. Stonewalling, or the unwillingness to engage in conversation and resolution is a sign that your marriage is in trouble.
6. Bad memories.
Couples who get stuck viewing their relationship through a negative lens end up rewriting history that is often distorted. This extreme negative outlook impacts the historical, present and future perception of the relationship and contributes to the demise of a marriage.”
In other words, learn to identify what is a problem in your marriage and what is just baggage from old relationships or even watching your parents’ marriage. Jealousy, suspicion and a lack of confidence in a relationship usually has more to do with a past relationship than the present one. Don’t let old baggage derail your marriage.
Even if you see these six things in your own marriage communication, it doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a divorce. The key to saving your marriage is seeing these problems for what they are and then working together to resolve them!