The No. 1 Predictor of Divorce Will Make You Rethink Everything

At one point, you probably heard the statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce. However, according to a study done between 2006 and 2010, the probability of finding the right one the first time around was about 70%. Drs. John and Julie Gottman have researched divorce for years and found four key elements that predict divorce. Here are the top four, plus how you can avoid making those predictable mistakes. The number one element may surprise you (check out page 4).


Frustrated Couple Sitting On Couch Quarreling

It’s very important you don’t shut your partner out. |

If you’ve ever shut down toward your partner, you’ve stonewalled. It occurs when one person in the relationship puts up a front of unresponsiveness. It’s extremely important to communicate with your partner when things start to go wrong. Turning away, tuning someone out, or acting busy in order to avoid open communication are all forms of stonewalling. It’s easy to become infuriated when you’re trying to talk things out with your partner and they’re ignoring it. It can lead to even more tense arguments.


Casual couple having coffee together

Always putting the blame on your partner can cause them to shut down. |

This occurs when you or your partner plays the victim. According to Dr. John Gottman, defensiveness is actually just blaming your partner for a problem. Rather than accepting the criticism and taking responsibility, you tell your partner that what you’re doing is perfectly okay and that they are the problem. While defensiveness is bound to occur at some point, it’s important to recognize when it occurs and figure out a way to come to a positive outcome during an argument.


Couple talking outdoors in a park with a green background

Having an opinion and criticizing your partner are two different things. | AntonioGuillem/Getty Images

There is a big difference between voicing a complaint to your partner and criticizing him or her. When you criticize, you’re attacking. For example, “You’re so selfish for not wanting to do this with me,” is a criticism. Saying, “I thought we agreed to find time for each other’s interests,” would be voicing a complaint. The criticism comes with an immediate sense of negativity. The complaint is addressing a problem without focusing the blame entirely on one person.


a heterosexual couple lie on their stomachs in bed while they have a discussion

Constant sarcasm can cause a wedge in the relationship. | iStock/Getty Images

After years of researching divorce between couples, Dr. Gottman has found that contemptuous behavior is the number one predictor of divorce. Contempt can be expressed in forms of sarcasm, name calling, mimicking, eye rolling, and more. An example of this behavior would be: A man said to his wife, “Do you really need to have a wine night with your friends tonight?” To which she replied, “Why don’t you just tie me to the family room couch to make sure I can only be here with you and not make time for anyone else!”

The woman’s response is very contemptuous. It is filled with sarcasm and negativity. Behavior like this leads to little reconciliation and can destroy the psychological, emotional, and physical aspects of a relationship.

On the plus side, there are some excellent tactics for preventing these types of feuds with your spouse. Huffington Post asked various therapists for the best ways to communicate with a partner. Here are three things to work on to ensure reconciliation and a happy marriage:

Practice your delivery

Couple laying in bed

Figure out a better way to communicate. |

Christine Wilke, a marriage therapist, says that proper wording is essential in preventing arguments and creating a lasting marriage. A perfect example is criticizing your partner versus voicing a complaint to your partner. It’s easy to get the same point across, but with different wording, it can make a world of a difference and prevent your discussion from going from bad to worse.

Don’t live in the past

Couple sitting and thinking

Don’t live in the past. |

When something goes wrong, talk to your partner about it. Without proper communication, you’ll let the little things build up into one big snowball argument, say Judith and Bob Wright, authors of relationship books. When you do discuss things with your partner, make sure you listen to what he or she has to say about you, and act on it. Pay attention to the discussions you have and learn from them to become a better communicator.

Pay attention to body language

Couple holding hands

Your body language is more important thank you think. |

Body language speaks volumes, according to counselor Chelli Pumphrey. If you’re constantly rolling your eyes at your spouse, take a step back and figure out why. If an argument starts to get too heated, it’s best to walk away rather than scowl at your partner. Crossing your arms also signals that you’re not open to discussion. Make sure your body language sends positive signals to your partner at all times.

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