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Posts tagged ‘predictors of divorce’

This One Thing is the Biggest Predictor of Divorce

SOURCE: Eva Van Prooyen/The Gottman Institute

You may know Dr. John Gottman as “the guy that can predict divorce with over 90% accuracy.” His life’s work on marital stability and divorce prediction has been well documented in the national media, and it was even featured in the #1 bestseller Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

After watching thousands of couples argue in his lab, he was able to identify specific negative communication patterns that predict divorce. He called them The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and they are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Contempt is the most destructive of The Four Horsemen because it conveys, “I’m better than you. I don’t respect you.” It’s so destructive, in fact, that couples who are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illness than couples who are not contemptuous of each other. The target of contempt is made to feel despised and worthless.

Treating others with disrespect and mocking them with sarcasm are forms of contempt. So are hostile humor, name-calling, mimicking, and/or body language such as eye-rolling and sneering.

In his book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, Dr. Gottman notes:

When contempt begins to overwhelm your relationship you tend to forget entirely your partner’s positive qualities, at least while you’re feeling upset. You can’t remember a single positive quality or act. This immediate decay of admiration is an important reason why contempt ought to be banned from marital interactions.

Contempt erodes the bond that holds a couple securely together. It’s impossible to build connection when your relationship is deprived of respect.

What does contempt look like?

Let me introduce you to a couple from my practice. After five years together, Chris and Mark (names changed for anonymity) find their marriage in a tailspin. Chris feels dismissed, shamed, and blamed by Mark.

“I can’t believe you think it’s okay to speak to me the way you do. The things you say to me make me feel awful. It’s like you constantly think I’m a dumbass,” Chris says in my office.

“What? I’m just stating facts,” justifies Mark while rolling his eyes.

“Well, the things you say are hurtful. What’s the point?” asks Chris.

“I’m constantly disappointed by things you say and do. Your logic doesn’t make sense to me,” says Mark. His unwillingness to be influenced or take responsibility for himself is unshakeable.

“If I spoke to you in the same way, you would lose your mind,” says Chris.

“Whatever,” Mark mumbles.

Chris has stopped being affectionate towards Mark, and Mark mostly ignores her complaints at this point. Contempt has totally taken over their relationship.

The antidote to contempt

Here’s the good news. Dr. Gottman’s ability to predict divorce is contingent on behaviors not changing over time. You can reverse a pattern of contempt in your relationship before it’s too late. The antidote lies in building fondness and admiration.

Dr. Gottman discovered that the best way to measure fondness and admiration is to ask couples about their past. How did they meet? What were their first impressions of each other?

If a relationship is in crisis, partners are unlikely to elicit much praise by talking about the current state of affairs. Talking about the happy events of the past, however, helps many couples reconnect.

If a couple can revive their fondness and admiration for each other, they are more likely to approach conflict resolution as a team, and the growth of their sense of “we-ness” will keep them as connected as they felt when they first met.

I witness a glimmer of hope when I ask couples how they fell in love. Partners talk about how attractive they thought their partner was. How funny they were. How nervous and excited they felt around each other.

Despite all the pain and negative feelings that have accumulated over years, there is still an ember of friendship. The key is to fan that ember back into flames, and the best way to do this is by creating a culture of appreciation and respect in the relationship.

Dr. Gottman teaches couples to look at their partner through rose-colored glasses. Instead of trying to catch them doing something wrong, catch them doing something right and appreciate them for it. Even the little things. I like how you did your hair today. Thank you for getting my favorite ice cream. I appreciate you vacuuming without me asking you to.

Identifying contempt is the first step towards getting your relationship back on track. If you and your partner need a little extra help, you may benefit from couples counseling.

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How To Protect Your Relationship When You’re Drifting Apart

SOURCE:  Laura Silverstein

Sometimes we feel like we’re rushing through life so fast that we’re missing out. You try to prioritize exercise and meditation, but self-care is often the first thing to go when the chaos rises.

Trying to keep all the balls in the air can mean you aren’t seeing what’s right in front of your face. You and your partner might be drifting apart. Here’s what you need to know to bridge distance:

1. Chances are, this is just a phase.

You won’t always be so busy. Someday, if all goes according to plan, you’ll be sitting next to your partner, smiling about the life you have built together.

2. Long-term love is an extraordinary gift.

This security is tremendous, and not to be taken for granted. A person who celebrates how awesome you are and doesn’t leave you when you mess up is something to be treasured.

3. A relationship can die without a single slammed door or raised voice.

Even when there is no cheating, no screaming, no irreconcilable differences, relationships can end. It happens slowly, subtly, and silently. Distance left unaddressed is a leading cause of separation.

Relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman’s research identified eight predictors of divorce. Many of these predictors are symptoms you would expect, like poor conflict management and a high degree of negativity. Of the eight predictors, emotional distancing is the hardest to recognize.

4. There are warning signs. You just have to know what they are.

These include the absence of affection, humor, curiosity, excitement, and empathy in daily interactions.

If you have a huge fight with your partner, it’d be strange for both of you not to notice. Those conflicts are usually addressed. It is much more difficult, however, to recognize that the two of you have been holding hands less frequently or having fewer interesting conversations.

Example: Your partner asks you a question when you’re in the middle of something. You let him know now isn’t a good time, and you both move on with the day, leaving no one hurt or offended. But when attempts at connection are pushed away over and over again, people naturally reach out less and less, and eventually stop altogether.

5. The solution is simple and can be carried out in as few as six seconds each day.

In couples therapy I often tell my patients that I cannot teach them to love one another. But I can teach them how to nourish the love that they already have. You don’t have to hire a babysitter or plan a vacation. As few as six seconds at a time can make an immense difference over the long term.

To stay emotionally close, intersperse tiny moments of connection into your lives every single day. Simply put: Reach out warmly to your partner on a regular basis and respond with warmth when your partner reaches out to you.

Here are a few ways you might do this:

  1. You kiss your partner goodbye every day on the way to work. It becomes a habit, and you stop paying attention. Instead, slow down, enjoy the kiss, and recognize that you are kissing someone you’re in love with — not your Great-Aunt Lulu. Gottman recommends kissing hello and goodbye for six solid seconds.
  2. You’re rushing out to meet friends for dinner, giving instructions to the babysitter, and your partner tells you how nice you look. Switch gears for a second or two. Make eye contact, and say, “Thank you.” If you want appreciation, appreciate it when you get it.
  3. You’re finally in bed with your favorite book, enjoying the peace and quiet. Your partner climbs into bed next to you. Be willing to put your book down for a moment and say, “Hey, I’m totally wiped but so glad you’re home!” Acknowledge that you’re pleased to see your partner before you return to reading.

These tiny energy expenditures will invigorate your relationship exponentially.

When running a long-distance race, it’s essential to drink water before you get thirsty. Similarly, you need to nourish your relationship before you feel that it’s been drained. This will make you feel better, giving you that additional boost you got when your relationship first started, and a reminder that you are loved.

You have shared your heart with an amazing person. Stay close to him or her even when life is turbulent, so you’re still together when it isn’t.

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