Is your marriage just going through a rough patch, or is it doomed? How can you even tell?
Well, according to research pioneered by Dr. John Gottman of the Gottman Institute, the odds of a divorce can come down to how well a couple communicates (or doesn’t). According to Dr. Gottman, there are four factors that he calls “the 4 Horsemen” of divorce:
Constructive feedback, especially when it is requested, isn’t the same as criticism. If you can’t seem to do anything right in your spouse’s eyes or they attack your character, that’s a sign of real marital trouble. It’s not a healthy situation when your self-worth takes a hit every time you talk to your spouse about your thoughts, goals or experiences.
Some people respond to stress or conflict by shutting down. While that may be natural, it can have a chilling effect on a marriage if the issues that started the conflict are never addressed. If your spouse withdraws emotionally every time you have a disagreement and then pretends that nothing ever happened or was said, that’s a recipe for disaster.
When someone’s manning the fortress they’ve built around their emotions, they have no ability to see anything from their spouse’s perspective. That doesn’t make for much of a marriage. Defensiveness can also manifest as a refusal to accept accountability for their actions and attempts to push all the blame on you.
Contempt may be the most destructive of these four. Contempt may be overt, such as when your spouse openly mocks you and belittles your feelings. It can also be more subtle (and harder to call out), manifesting through passive-aggressive behavior, sarcasm and eye rolls.