John Gottman can listen to a couple for 5 minutes and determine, with 91% accuracy, whether they’ll divorce.
Gottman’s researched marriage for over 40 years and couples that attend his workshops have half the relapse rate that standard therapy provides.
In his book he debunks a lot of myths about marriage, explains why marriages go bad and what can be done about it.
The Four Horsemen
The four horsemen are his way of being able to indicate which marriage is hitting an apocalypse:
- Criticism – Complaints are fine. Criticism is more global — it attacks the person, not their behavior. They didn’t take out the garbage because they forgot, but because they’re a bad person.
- Contempt – “…name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. In whatever form, contempt – the worst of the four horsemen – is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with him or her.”
- Defensiveness – “…defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, ‘The problem isn’t me, it’s you.’ Defensiveness just escalates the conflict, which is why it’s so deadly.”
- Stonewalling – Tuning out. Disengaging. This doesn’t just remove the person from the conflict, it ends up removing them, emotionally, from the relationship.
Gottman’s research reveals that major differences of opinion don’t destroy marriages, it’s how a couple deals with them.
69% of a couple’s problems are perpetual. These problems don’t go away yet many couples keep arguing about them year after year:
Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind – but it can’t be done. This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values. By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.
How do good marriages deal with issues that can’t be resolved? They accept one another as-is:
These couples intuitively understand that problems are inevitably part of a relationship, much the way chronic physical ailments are inevitable as you get older. They are like a trick knee, a bad back, an irritable bowel, or tennis elbow. We may not love these problems, but we are able to cope with them, to avoid situations that worsen them, and to develop strategies and routines that help us deal with them. Psychologist Dan Wile said it best in his book After the Honeymoon: “When choosing a long-term partner… you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty or fifty years.
Featured photo: Wisie.com