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What if someone told you it’s possible to predict your chances of divorce with over 90% accuracy? Well, based on certain behaviors present during a given couple’s arguments, Dr. John Gottman has been able to predict divorce with up to 93% accuracy. He has dubbed these behaviors, “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” and these findings have helped many couples save their marriages over the past thirty years. If you find any of these behaviors in your marriage, it is important to cut them out immediately.


Though it may sound paltry, criticism often leads to more destructive behaviors down the road.

Criticism is different from constructive feedback because it involves a personal attack on your spouse’s character. Constructive feedback, however, is a request for your spouse to change a certain behavior. You’ll know you have a problem with criticism when you find yourself saying things like, “you always…”, “you’re so…”, or “you never…”. According to experts, you can fix this by forming your complaints with “I feel statements” instead of criticizing your spouse.


The second horseman has been named the single largest predictor of divorce: contempt. When a person feels contemptuous, they typically feel a sense of self-righteousness and moral superiority. These feelings may cause them to engage in sarcasm, mockery, eye-rolling, and other signs of disrespect.  In Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me, Carol Tarvis and Eliot Aronson noticed a similar trend in marriages: couples in failing marriages seemed to dwell on their spouse’s mistakes and flaws. When people begin to dwell on their spouse’s flaws, they risk becoming arrogant and self-justifying. This often leads to the third horseman.


The third horseman, defensiveness, is present in nearly every failing marriage. Sometimes, defensiveness takes the form of a spouse responding to complaints by launching complaints of their own in order to deflect blame. Other times, defensiveness can take the form of playing the victim in order to shirk responsibility. But these behaviors can cost you dearly: defensive spouses run the risk of making their significant other feel as though their concerns don’t matter.  Therefore, if you feel defensive when your spouse brings up a complaint, it is important to listen and take the complaint seriously—–even if you don’t feel as though it’s a valid complaint. This will show your partner that you value them and their feelings.


The final horseman of the apocalypse is stonewalling. Many people become overwhelmed during an argument. When the emotions are high, it’s normal to feel the need to escape. While it’s understandable to need a break during a conflict, abruptly storming out mid-argument without telling your spouse where you’re going, and when you’ll be back, can make your spouse feel isolated. Stonewalling also includes behaviors like giving your partner the silent treatment. Stonewalling can cause significant damage to your marriage. Instead of stonewalling your partner, communicate to them that you need a break from the conversation and that you’ll return to it once you’ve calmed down.

When the Damage Is Already Done:

If you see any of these horsemen in your marriage, it isn’t necessarily too late to get the help you need. Many couples are able to change these behaviors with counseling and hard work. Unfortunately, this is not the case for every marriage. If these behaviors have damaged your marriage past the point of repair, CoilLaw can help you. Our expert attorneys can aid you in starting the divorce process so you can move on to a healthier, happier time in your life. 


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