Dr. John Gottman and the University of Washington has done extensive research on what causes marriages to work. Gottman and his team have also arrived at some very important conclusions as to what causes divorce. From all of their research, they have found four predictors of divorce. Based on these four factors are described in Dr. Gottman book, “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail” as “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” and can predict with more than a 90% accuracy who will divorce.
These four predictors are “criticism”, “defensiveness”, “contempt” and “stonewalling”. Even though any of these issues could be present in any marriage at some point, it is the accumulation of these problems that warrants the most danger.
Here is a brief description of each one. I want to encourage you to do a quick examination to see how you rate in each one.
· Criticism – Criticism involves attacking your partner’s personality or character, rather than focusing on the specific behavior that bothers you. It is healthy to air disagreements, but not to attack your spouse’s personality or character in the process. This is the difference between saying, “I’m upset that you didn’t take out the trash” and saying, “I can’t believe you didn’t take out the trash. You’re just so irresponsible.” In general, women are more likely to pull this horseman into conflict. Losing the positive mental attitude toward your spouse and developing a critical spirit. All of us see problems in our spouse, but we must also see the good and keep the disciplines of thanks, praise and complimenting one another alive and well. Without
this, criticism is inevitable and dangerous.
· Contempt – Contempt is one step up from criticism and involves tearing down or being insulting toward your partner. Contempt is an open sign of disrespect. Examples of contempt include: putting down your spouse, rolling your eyes or sneering, or tearing down the other person with so-called “humor.”Long term anger that hasn’t been dealt with properly causes bitterness, lost passion and a contempt for others. When you haven’t forgiven your spouse for something they’ve done, contempt is inevitable. Contempt is often expressed through name-calling, cursing, verbal abuse and rejection.
· Defensiveness –
Not allowing your spouse the right to complain. Adopting a defensive stance in the middle of conflict may be a natural response, but does not help the relationship. All of us are imperfect and need the input and perspective of our spouses. When a person is defensive, he or she often experiences a great deal of tension and has difficulty tuning into what is being said. Denying responsibility, making excuses, or meeting one complaint with another are all examples of defensiveness. When we won’t allow our spouses the opportunity to complain, it bottles up anger in the relationship and also implies that our spouses are the cause of the problems.
· Stonewalling – Refusing to participate in a civil discussion of an issue or issues so they can be resolved. People who stonewall simply refuse to respond. Occasional stonewalling can be healthy, but as a typical way of interacting, stonewalling during conflict can be destructive to the marriage. Men tend to engage in stonewalling much more often than women do. This can be demonstrated through obstinacy, silence or a long term refusal to yield on a subject. When you stonewall on a regular basis, you are pulling yourself out of the marriage, rather than working out your problems. Stonewalling is a very dangerous trait because it emotionally abandons your spouse and leaves problems unresolved.
I strongly agree with the finding of Dr. Gottman. I have experienced first hand the devastation in my first marriage these four issues can unleash. I can admit to being guilty defensiveness and quite contemptuous at times. The truth is, if we will just concentrate on reversing these problems and work hard on the positive side of things, we will insure the success of our marriages. Instead of the horsemen, try these disciplines and see if they won’t provide a solid foundation for lasting success in marriage.
Always stay positive and compliment each other every day.
Love with humility, be humble and approachable. Let your spouse say how they feel without having to pay a price.
Forgive, forgive, forgive, every day. Don’t let your heart become hard or your spirit become bitter, and never harbor ill will for one another.
Communicate, turn off the TV, the radio, and spend time talking.
Most important, stay committed to your spouse and your marriage.
You took a vow, made a promise, let you yes be yes!
Try to never go to bed in anger. Even if you need to cool off for a while — come back and talk things out.
Tell yourselves “Divorce is not an option”
Ordelle Kemp, Salt Lake Examiner