Four Things Guaranteed to Kill a Marriage

On behalf of Ronald H. Kauffman, P.A. posted in Divorce on Friday, March 1, 2013.

Predicting who gets divorce is tough. It’s been said that John Gottman can listen to a couple for 5 minutes and determine with 91% accuracy whether they’ll divorce.

Gottman has researched marriage for over 40 years, and couples that attend his workshops have half the relapse rate that standard therapy provides. I just ordered his book: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

At the core of Gottman’s research are “The Four Horsemen”, the four indicators a divorce is on its way:

1. Criticism – Complaints are fine. Criticism though, attacks the person, not their behavior. (Husband didn’t take out the garbage because he’s a bad person, not because he forgot.)

2. Contempt – “…name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. In whatever form contempt – the worst of the four horsemen – conveys disgust. How can you resolve a problem when your partner thinks you’re disgusted with him.

3. Defensiveness – Defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. and automatically escalates the conflict: ‘The problem isn’t with me, it’s with you.’

4. Stonewalling – Tuning out doesn’t just remove the person from the conflict, it removes them emotionally from the relationship.

Interestingly, Gottman claims most arguments in a marriage cannot be resolved. Couples can spend years trying to change each other’s mind, but it can’t be done. Instead of arguing, he suggests accepting each another as-is:

Psychologist Dan Wile said it best in his book After the Honeymoon: “When choosing a long-term partner . . . you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty or fifty years.

The book also has few interesting statistics:

  • “…an unhappy marriage can increase your chances of getting sick by roughly 35% and even shorten your life by an average of 4 years.”
  • “96% of the time you can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first three minutes of the fifteen minute interaction…”
  • “I’ve found 94 percent of the time that couples who put a positive spin on their marriage’s history are likely to have a happy future as well. When happy memories are distorted, it’s a sign that the marriage needs help.”

His book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is available at Amazon (No, I don’t get a cut).

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