Dating and Relationship Advice – The Number 1 Predictor of Divorce (and how to fix it)

After four decades of research, a clear pattern emerged

The number 1 predictor of divorce (and how to fix it)

John Gottman, Ph.D, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, is one of the world’s foremost marriage therapists. He’s spent four decades studying couples at The Gottman Institute in order to determine what really causes a rift between two people — and how to fix it. After all that research, Gottman noticed a clear pattern among couples that didn’t stay together, identifying what he says is the number one predictor of divorce.

It’s contempt.

Yes — as in eye-rolling, disgust-feeling, negative-thinking contempt. Many of us have felt it for a partner before — but even if you’re feeling it right now, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to separate. Here, Gottman Institute expert Mike McNulty, Ph.D., LCSW, breaks down what every couple needs to know, including why contempt is so detrimental to a relationship, how to spot it (in both your partner and yourself) and — perhaps most importantly — how to stop it.

How contempt occurs

It’s normal to feel annoyed at your partner or to disagree on things, but when you allow yourself to reach a level of contempt or disgust for them, that’s when McNulty says it becomes unhealthy. Every couple fights, and every couple has issues: “All relationships involve ongoing, perpetual problems that will resurface,” says McNulty. But it’s how you handle them — either with kindness or contempt — that can make or break you as a couple. “Partners who do not handle discussions of these problems well are at the most risk of divorce,” he says. Imagine discussing a recurring issue, such as a difficult mother-in-law or major difference in libidos.

The number 1 predictor of divorce (and how to fix it)

“Partners who are headed toward divorce have the following tendencies: They become angry and use what we call the ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse or negative patterns of communication, which are criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness,” says McNulty. “This leads to something we call ‘diffuse physiological arousal’ or ‘flooding’ [which involves] one or both partners’ bodies releasing hormones as heart rates accelerate, muscles become tense, the skin becomes hot or sweaty, and the stomach feels nervous.”

Sound familiar? If you’ve ever experienced a “heated” argument in which you felt your voice or blood pressure rise, you know that this mental state isn’t conducive to a civil conversation. “In this state, partners cannot take in new information and they lose their senses of humour and creativity,” explains McNulty. In other words, you’d be better off speaking later when you’re both feeling more calm. “All of these factors make discussing the important ongoing problems totally unworkable,” McNulty says.

The good news about anger

Even if you and your partner have been having some heated arguments lately, it doesn’t mean you’re headed for disaster. “Relationships die by ice rather than fire,” says McNulty. “Some couples eventually stop trying to have a dialogue. They find working on key conflicts to be too difficult or painful. They give up. They grow more distant, and live more like roommates than spouses. In the end, emotional disengagement is truly the ultimate sign of a relationship headed towards divorce. “If you’re both still arguing you haven’t yet reached the point of surrender,” says McNulty.

What to watch for

Rolling your eyes at something your partner says is one of the most common ways people express contempt. “Besides the eye roll, another sign is the lifting of the upper lip to make a sneer,” says McNulty. “It’s an overall attitude of disgust at one’s partner and/or a sense of superiority.”

Sometimes it’s subtle: “For example, when discussing how to keep their home [tidy], one partner may say to the other, ‘In my family, we cared more about our house.’ The unspoken ending to that sentence is, ‘…than your family did.’ The implication is: ‘My family is superior to yours.'” McNulty adds that people who are perfectionists can easily fall into this trap.

How to handle conflict better

Now that you know how harmful contempt can be, here are five things you can do in your relationship to handle conflict better:

  • Be on the lookout for common no-nos, like rolling your eyes, sneering, or making passive-aggressive comments.
  • Give your expectations a reality check. Remind yourself that your partner is a different person with different opinions and a different set of fundamental needs. You will not agree on everything, and you have to learn to be okay with that in order to maintain harmony.
  • Turn the issue around on yourself. When something really ticks you off, “Think, ‘Why does the behaviour bother me so much? Can I learn to live with it?'” If not, you can seek counselling to learn some coping mechanisms, but as McNulty points out that “in marriage, we have to learn to pick and chose our battles.”
  • Instead of feeling anger as your partner is speaking their mind, challenge yourself to listen more deeply to your partner’s point of view.
  • When it’s time to voice your feelings, remember to “complain gently without blaming the other person,” says McNulty. Talk about your feelings, and how you feel, versus blaming or criticising their actions. “These shifts in behaviour are fairly simple but really do make a difference.”

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am and 12pm EST.

Instagram: @phicklephilly                                 Facebook: phicklephilly

Trish – Unexpected Visit

After my fun evening at Square 1682 I head home. I get a text from my neighbor Trish. (See: Trish – The She Wolf) She says she wants to hang out with me soon and watch something on Netflix. I tell her that I would love that.

“Sweet! You let me know when! I’m chillin’ now if you’re in a sociable mood. No pressure though!

“Hey”

“Heyo!”

“Just got off the phone with Church.” (See: Church – Brand Ambassador)

“Do you want to come up and watch Netflix? Our usual fare?”

“Aw, how’s he? Okay I hope. Let’s watch it when we can laugh at them together.”

“Ok come up.”

“Yay! Let me grab my necessary belongings.”

“Door’s open.”

Trish pops in and she sits on the floor. She always sits on the floor. She just likes to be there. I’ll come home sometimes and she’ll be sitting on the floor chatting with my daughter Lorelei.

She has her blunt an ashtray and lighter. I’m half in the bag from my busy day. I’m still sipping chardonnay smoking cigs and chilling.

I start the program and we’re digging the show. It’s called A B C’s of Death. The producers gave random letters of the alphabet to 26 directors and let them make any kind of crazy short film about death. It’s really good. Trish and I like it because the state of mind we’re in when we watch it, (high or drunk or both) it’s easy to pay attention to each one because they’re so short.

So we’re watching it and I don’t remember when we stopped watching it but the next thing I know is I’m headed to the bedroom to get my bottle of coconut massage oil.

Don’t know why and don’t know when. I’m browning out. But Trish for some reason wants me to rub her neck and back. I do remember putting the oil on my hands, rubbing them together to warm it and went to work on her. She pulled her shirt over her head and she sat on the ottoman clutching her shirt to her breasts while I massaged her neck and back.

Crazy right? Trish isn’t into me. I’m her neighbor. I’ve known her for years. I wonder if her legs are feeling stiff because I would LOVE to give her a good leg massage. Trish has spectacular legs that I’ve always admired.

So I’m really going to town on her. Digging in and giving her a deep tissue massage. I’m massaging her neck and back. I feel like I’m really good at this. Maybe because I care about her. I really want her to feel better and not be in pain. I’m really enjoying this. I’ve always been attracted to Trish and this is a pretty intimate situation with my neighbor. She’s really submissive at this moment. I like it. I move her every which way and she just lets me do it. It was great and not sexual or weird in any way. But it was really nice to touch her body like that. It was like an exploration of her flesh.

You hear these stories of guys inviting girls back to their apartments for “Netflix and Chill.” They just want to have sex with them. Classic move: Guy offers said girl a neck or back massage and tries to turn that into a sexual encounter. It’s awfully cliché.

But nothing happened! She’s my neighbor!

I don’t remember much after that. I probably just went to bed.

UPDATE: Nothing happened but a great massage an she was back in my apartment hanging with my daughter Lorelei having dinner and it was like nothing had happened! So we’re cool. I’d still like to give Trish a leg massage just to make sure she is okay though….

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am EST.

Instagram: @phicklephilly Facebook: phicklephilly