What is the #1 predictor of divorce?
a) lack of physical intimacy
b) lack of similar interests
c) poor communication skills
d) financial problems
Answer to Tuesday's Psychological Trivia question:
The #1 Predictor of Divorce is c) Poor communication skills
To a degree this was a bit of a trick question, since often divorce seems to be due to the other 4 answers provided. People will say that they, "grew apart" & had little in common. Others will complain about financial problems and arguments leading them down the path to divorce. Lack of intimacy & affairs are often central to explanations of why a marriage fell apart. However, the results of over 20 years of research on couples may indicate that although the other answers on this quiz may be contributing factors, they appear to be secondary to poor communication skills & contemptuous communications between partners. How people fight about finances or other issues may lead to lack of desire for intimacy, infidelity or neglecting common interests. Being respectful of your partner may be the most important ingredient for a healthy relationship.
Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. reports in Psychology Today (March 3, 2013) the findings of extensive research by Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washington, an expert on couple studies. Dr Gottman concluded that the single, best predictor of divorce is when one or both partners show contempt in the relationship. Contempt, the opposite of respect, can be expressed in many ways. Negative judgments, criticism, or sarcasm regarding the worth of an individual are some of the ways we communicate contempt. Preston Ni discusses four major ways we can convey contempt, intentionally or unintentionally:
1. “You” language plus directives; "You are not good enough..."
2. Universal statements; "You never take my feelings into consideration..." "You always ignore the kids."
3. Tough on the person, soft on the issue;
Contemptuous communication: “You are such an idiot!”
Effective communication: “I know you are an intelligent person, but what you did this morning was not very smart.”
4. Invalidate feelings. "I don't care what you think, you are so oversensitive that your feelings are always exaggerated."
The good news is you can learn to communicate differently. It may be awkward at first, but you can practice better communication skills & learn how to communicate respectfully even when you disagree with your partner.
A large part of couples' counseling is focused on learning healthier communication skills. Rebuilding respectful ways of interacting after contemptuous arguments have occurred is extremely important if you want to prevent a breakdown of communication & divorce. If you recognize any of these negative patterns in your interactions, it may be time to call a professional & learn how to fight fair.
To learn more about these types of communication & how to change these patterns go to: Communication Success Be ultra-effective at home, at work, and in the world by Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. This article gave me the idea for the trivia question & post, so thanks Preston Ni & Psychology Today.