4 behaviours that lead to divorce

Here's what leads to a dead-end in marriages

Life & Style Desk March 03, 2016
Psychologists could predict which marriages would fail 93% of the time with these four signs. PHOTO: METROMATINEE.COM

Wondering why every marriage does not work out?

Two psychologists, John Gottman, founder of Gottman Institute at University of Washington, and Robert Levenson, at the University of California at Berkeley, set out to search the reasons behind this and the results are astounding.

The two psychologists researched 79 couples living across the US Midwest and found signs which could predict which marriages would end in divorce, with astounding accuracy. The study on the test couples spanned over a 14-year time period and surprisingly, 21 of these couples divorced during the study period.

When the psychologists added questions regarding relationship satisfaction and the number of times the subjects thought about separating, they could predict which marriages would fail 93% of the time.

This level of accuracy spurred the researchers to label the four telltale signs which they call "The four horsemen of the apocalypse" and they are:

1. Contempt:

The first telltale sign that a relationship is headed the wrong way is contempt -- a feeling of anger and disgust for one's partner. When you start seeing your partner as someone who is beneath you, and not an equal, Gottman calls this "the kiss of death," according to Business Insider. This behaviour alone is negative enough to end a relationship.

Business Insider explains that the reason this behaviour is so significantly negative is because it means you've closed yourself off to your partner's needs and emotions.

If you constantly feel smarter than or better than your partner, you're less likely see his or her opinions as valid and you're far less willing to empathise. It becomes difficult to see a situation from your partner's perspective.


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Criticism involves turning your partner's behaviour into a statement about his or her character. For example, if your partner leaves dishes around the house, do you wait until they get home and suggest they clean up, or do you ask yourself why you're married to someone who leaves dirty dishes around the house?

Over time, such critical thoughts about your partner can add up, and accumulate feelings of resentment and contempt.


3. Defensiveness:

If you regularly play the victim in tricky situations with your partner, you're being defensive. It's important to take responsibility for your role in a problem, even if it's uncomfortable, to avoid letting a situation escalate, explains Gottman.

According to Gottman, "Entering negativity is like stepping into a quicksand bog. It’s easy to enter but hard to exit."


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4. Stonewalling: 

Last but not the least, stonewalling is as toxic for a relationship as contempt.

If you see yourself getting into an argument with your partner and instead of talking it out, decide to block off the conversation with them, you are stonewalling.

While arguing with your partner isn't fun, its the only way you can understand a situation properly. With an argument, you can not only express your own feelings, but also make realisations about your behaviour that will help solve damaging problems.


Previous studies have also explored the reasons behind divorce and have found that couples who yelled at each other, showed contempt for one another, or stonewalled a conversation, ended up separated.

These behaviours happen every now and then in every relationship. It's when the frequency of this behaviour is so high that the negative in the relationship outweighs the positive, that it becomes a cause for concern.

If you can relate to any of these four signs, or even all of them, don't fret. The first step to actively combating relationship problems is to recognise what you're doing wrong. Figuring out how to avoid this negative behaviour and how to replace it with something positive will not only solve your problems, but make your relationship much stronger.


Khawar Butt | 5 years ago | Reply The research applies to American Culture where husband and wife instead of having a compromising attitude compete with each other. Immigrants from Pakistan /India who leave their cultural values behind unfortunately end up in the same category.
Ifzal Ahmad | 5 years ago | Reply Informative. However, I feel like these are some common sense things. How come it took 14 years of these researchers to come to this conclusion? Is it just me feeling like this or anyone else have similar feelings?
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