I recently read that in a research in 2000 two researchers (John Gottman from the University of Washington and Robert Wayne Levenson from the University of California – Berkeley) investigated the predictability of divorces in long-term relationships. More specifically they managed to found between other data that there are four behaviors that could probably lead to a divorce if they occur frequently. The model of Gottman and Levenson (2000) found to have 93% accuracy in predicting divorce.
Two periods have found to be more critical for the conservation/continuation of a marriage:
– The first seven years of a marriage during which half couples have a divorce
– The period during which the first child becomes 14 years old “which has been suggested as a low point for marital satisfaction in the life course” (Gottman & Levenson, 2000).
The four behaviors that can predict divorce which have been called “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” by the researchers are:
1. Contempt: When you behave or actually believe that your partner is less valuable than you, so not equal to you. You think that you are always right, you do everything better, you are the smart in the house so he/she seems unable to do anything right. No matter how much effort he/she will put to impress you or make things in a good way, you will not probably see or admit it because of your strong belief that you are better in everything. In this way you practically don’t care about other person’s thoughts and emotions.
2. Criticism: Strongly related to contempt. Criticism is not to make comments about something that is bothering you, but it is more making labels that usually don’t characterize our partner. One action, one phrase, one mistake doesn’t make a whole person! Every partner has both gifts and weaknesses.
3. Stone-walling: It is simply when you shut down a conversation. Fights are not pleasant but solutions come up out of discussions. Denying a conversation is like closing a door to your partner’s face. The bad news are that in by stone-walling you don’t change, your partner doesn’t change, nothing changes.
4. Defensiveness: No one can be always a victim, no one can be always responsible for all the trouble. If a couple has problems then they both did mistakes. There is a well-known phrase says: “It takes two to tango”. So from time to time both partners should admit their mistakes and other person’s point. Taking a responsibility is not always nice or easy but could keep a bad situation in a decent level.
But since all of us will behave more or less in the four ways that it is mentioned above, which could be the keys to keep a relationship strong and alive? Well the first thing that we should keep in mind is that we are usually aware of the moments that we hurt our partners. So when we notice that one or more of our behaviors annoy our partners we should better avoid them. Moreover, we can always replace them with positive actions, as:
1. humor: Don’t always take things so seriously. Just laugh about them! You are not perfect, your partner is not perfect, even life is not perfect. Sometimes just try to relax.
2. gratitude: If you cannot feel now somehow grateful for what you have then you will never reach happiness!
3. forgiveness: “Forgive” first of all means “Understand”. Try to understand and remember that we are all do mistakes and there is no exception of it. When you really forgive, you increase your well-being because you can feel that no matter what are the differences between people, human beings share a lot of common characteristics to each other.
4. disclosure: Try not to judge and not to use statements to characterize your partner. We are not our thoughts, our emotions or actions. We are something much more. So labels usually don’t say a lot for individuals.
On the other hand, try to say clearly your opinion and don’t suppress your feelings and thoughts. Speak honestly and bravely without offending your partner. Always try to clarify things to feel that you both know “where this ship goes”.
Brodwin, E. (2015) 4 behaviors are the most reliable predictors of divorce. Retrieved from: http://www.businessinsider.com/4-behaviors-can-predict-divorce-2015-1.
Gottman, J. M. & Levenson, R. W. (2000). The Timing of Divorce: Predicting When a Couple Will Divorce Over a 14-Year Period. Journal of Marriage and the Family 62 (August 2000): 737–745.