Renowned marriage psychologist John Gottman
PhD claims that he can predict whether spouses will get divorced with 90 percent accuracy after speaking with them for just a few minutes. His research and methods have earned him plenty of publicity – including appearances on Anderson Cooper, Oprah, and NPR’s This American Life.
To determine whether he believes spouses will get divorced, Dr. Gottman examines the way they fight. He brings up an area of conflict, and then looks for four key patterns that – he says – are nearly surefire signs of an eventual divorce.
Dr. Gottman’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”
Dr. Gottman calls these four patterns his, “four horsemen of the apocalypse.” In more prosaic terms, these are four patterns of communication that may suggest either lack of compatibility or lack of appreciation, both of which can often lead to divorce
. So, what are the “four horsemen”?
Criticism involves not just finding fault in your spouse, but rather examines why
you find fault in their thoughts or behavior. Dr. Gottman asserts that when one spouse suggests that the other’s character or personality is flawed, this constitutes a form of criticism that indicates a likelihood of divorce.
Defensiveness is a common response to criticism, and is another potential harbinger of divorce. Instead of getting defensive, Dr. Gottman suggests being open to finding the truth in what your spouse is saying. Avoiding defensiveness is about taking responsibility instead of arguing back with justifications or excuses.
Dr. Gottman states that contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce. By contempt, he means acting or speaking in such a way as to suggest that you are superior to your spouse. Eye-rolling, insults, mockery, and name-calling are all expressions of contempt that tend to come out during fights.
If you or your partner “shut down” during fights, this too can be a warning sign of potential divorce. Stonewalling can be a passive way of communicating disinterest and apathy, both of which lead to unhealthy relationships. Interestingly, Dr. Gottman also asserts that stonewalling can be the product of a spouse becoming overwhelmed by fighting – and being physiologically unable to cope with the conflict. This too can be an indicator that a marriage will end prematurely.
It’s Not If You Fight, But How You Fight
Dr. Gottman is not alone in his assessment that fighting alone is not necessarily a warning sign, but rather how spouses fight is what truly matters. In fact, many experts say that some constructive fighting can actually be healthy for a marital relationship. But, if your fights are harmful and unproductive – or if they ever lead to domestic violence
– experts suggest that this can signal long-term incompatibility.
Contact an Orlando Divorce Attorney at McMichen, Cinami & Demps
If you are considering a divorce, the experienced divorce attorneys at McMichen, Cinami & Demps
can help you explore your options and develop a plan for ending your marriage. If you would like to schedule an initial consultation, please call our Orlando, FL offices at (407) 898-2161 or contact us online