We all know marriage is really tough because you have to deal with feelings and lawyers. John Gottman has been researching couples for years and he can predict divorce with 91 percent accuracy. So, he is really good at what he does. He has come up with four things that are really predictive of divorce. He calls them Horseman. These are small things that if you have it in your relationship, you should watch out, because it may end up in divorce.
The first horseman is criticism, it's a way of complaining that suggests your partner’s personality is defective. Complaining is okay as long as I talk about myself, what I feel and what I need. Disaster starts when we try to make it a symptom of our partner's defect. For example, John and Mary are having a conversation and Mary keeps talking about herself and that annoys John. So he responds by saying, “you talked about yourself all through dinner, you never ask me anything about my day that hurt my feelings. I really needed you to ask about my day.” He's talking about himself, what he feels and what he needs. But what if he instead said something like, “you know, you talked about yourself all through dinner. You never asked about my day. What's wrong with you?” Now John is criticizing Mary and she's going to feel attacked.
And this brings us to the second horseman and that is defensiveness. There are two ways to becoming defensive. The first way is to respond to a complaint with another complaint. And the second way is to act like an innocent victim. Like Marry whines, “I care about you. I really did. I was really interested in your day.” The solution here is very simple. Instead of getting defensive, you accept the responsibility even for a small part of the problem. For example, after John says to Marry, you never asked about my day. Mary can say, “God, good point, I really was stressed out. You're right. How was your day?”
The third Horseman Is the best predictor of divorce and It is disrespect and contempt. Contempt is a little bit different than criticism. In contempt, you feel superior to your partner. You are talking down to them like you feel cleaner, more punctual or smarter than your partner. Then you are going to talk down to them. You may even start calling your partner names or directly insulting them. For example, John says, “what a jerk. You always talk about yourself.” Now, he may like Mary to respond with, “John. That's brilliant. Thank you for pointing out all the ways that I am failing as a human. Can we have launch next week so you can tell me more?” But people usually don't respond that way. In fact, they really get hurt and that's why contempt is the single best predictor of divorce. Now, the opposite of disrespect is not doing anything. It is respected and being proud of people we love. You can do this by saying thank you even for very small things that your partner is doing. Like thank you for picking up the laundry or I really enjoyed the conversation at dinner. You start creating a very different habit of mind where instead of scanning the environment for things to criticize, to make yourself superior, you scan the environment for things that you can praise and appreciate.
The fourth horseman is stonewalling. This is emotional withdrawal from conflict. Usually, when someone listening to a person talking, they give a lot of signals to show that they are following, like eye contact or nodding their head. But a stonewaller does nothing, and that pisses off the speaker. They think that they are not getting true. So they just intensify their effort to have an impact.
These are four horsemen of the apocalypse and John Gottman has proved that you can use them to predict with high accuracy what's going to happen to a relationship. They are Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and disrespect, and finally stonewalling. These are in fact a recipe for failure. If you have any of these in your relationship and you want your relationship to last, you better start working on them as soon as possible. And if you are still single the way taxes are, you might as well marry for love.
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