The Biggest Predictor of Divorce

Ever caught yourself getting a bit too sarcastic or rolling your eyes at your better half during a conversation? Well, these supposedly minor gestures or behaviours aren’t that innocent after all.

As shocking as it may seem, According to statistics, 41 percent of first marriages and 60 percent of the second marriages end in divorce!

We can often see different signs of unhappiness in our marriages that creates doubt and makes us question whether or not to stay together and committed to whomever we are with. Thus, taking into consideration the predictors or indicators of divorce can help and enable us to make rational decisions in a shorter period while fulfilling our needs and desires.


The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse


Dr. John Gottman, Ph.D., is one of the most renowned and respected marriage researchers. He is known to be the guy who can predict divorce with over 90 percent accuracy. Dr. Gottman spent around four decades studying various couples to determine what actually causes a split or rift between two people. After watching and studying thousands of couples fight and argue in his labs and therapy rooms, he was able to pick up and identify various specific negative patterns of communication that could predict splits. Dr. John Gottman called them ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ and these were ‘Contempt,’ followed by ‘Criticism,’ ‘Defensiveness and ‘Stonewalling.’

Contempt and what is it?


Contempt is the main and the most destructive of the Four Horsemen. Contempt itself can be called and referred to as being the biggest predictor of divorce.

Contempt refers to the feeling that another person is worthless or beneath consideration. This is a mixture of disgust and anger which is far more toxic in comparison to simple negativity and frustration. Many of us have felt it for our partner before, as in disgust-feeling, eye-rolling, negative-thinking, this is all a part of contempt.

If you constantly feel smarter than, better than, or more sensitive than your significant other, you’re not only less likely see his or her opinions as valid, but, more important, you’re far less willing to try to put yourself in his or her shoes to try to see a situation from his or her perspective.

How Contempt Occurs


All relationships involve perpetual and ongoing series of problems that will reappear throughout the period in which we (the couples) are together. But it is up to us, whether we handle the problem with kindness or contempt.

Partners who are headed towards a divorce are mostly angry at each other and exchange negative patterns of communications continuously. This leads to ‘flooding’ or ‘diffuse physiological arousal’ in which one or both the bodies release hormones as the muscles become tense, heart rate accelerates, blood pressure increases and the skin becomes hot and sweaty. This may sound familiar to those who have experienced a heated argument. You know yourself that in this state couples lose the ability to digest to what the other person is speaking and they lose their sense of humor too.

Couples going through this state of ‘flooding’ repeatedly can develop a permanent state of contempt between each other.

What does contempt look like


According Dr. Gottman, in his book ‘Why Marriages Succeed or Fail’, he displayed contempt with an example which was something like this.

(Let me introduce you to a couple from my practice. After five years together, Chris and Mark (names changed for anonymity) find their marriage in a tailspin. Chris feels dismissed, shamed, and blamed by Mark.

“I can’t believe you think it’s okay to speak to me the way you do. The things you say to me make me feel awful. It’s like you constantly think I’m a dumbass,” Chris says in my office.

“What? I’m just stating facts,” justifies Mark while rolling his eyes.

“Well, the things you say are hurtful. What’s the point?” asks Chris.

“I’m constantly disappointed by things you say and do. Your logic doesn’t make sense to me,” says Mark. His unwillingness to be influenced or take responsibility for himself is unshakeable.

“If I spoke to you in the same way, you would loose your mind,” says Chris.

“Whatever,” Mark mumbles.

Chris has stopped being affectionate towards Mark, and Mark mostly ignores his complaints at this point. Contempt has totally taken over their relationship.)

Kicking contempt to the curb


There is no doubt to how toxic, destructive and negative contempt is, but it is nothing which cannot be avoided or diminished by couples. Here are some of the strategies which will help avoid contempt and enable us to handle our conflicts and problems better:

Realizing delivery of the message is the backbone

Contempt usually comes in the form of sarcasm, snickering, long sighs and name-calling, so it is important to know that it’s not what say, but how you say it which makes the difference. Our goal is to present our message to the other party in such a way that it doesn’t distort the actual meaning of the message and also doesn’t do any kind of damage to the relationship.

Avoid mean jokes and sarcasm

Do not make jokes at the expense of your better half, where you are the only one enjoying the joke and the other person is angry and irritated. Avoid the usage of sarcastic comments like, ‘oh, that was very funny, please tell me again’ or ‘you should actually go out to eat every day with your friends.’

Stop living in the past

Most partners start showing contempt to each other as they have a lot of things which are build up inside them of the other partner. To remove contempt all together, partners must stay up to date in their communication and don’t bring up past actions or scenarios and use in your favor.

Be careful of your body language

The best thing to do when things get heated up between you and your partner is to take a break from each other or try focusing on the positivities rather than the negativities of the partner. Because even rolling your eyes or long heavy sighs or smirking during confrontations and arguments can further worsen the situation between you and your partner.

Criticism, Defensiveness and Stonewalling

The remaining Horsemen of the Apocalypse are not as big, toxic or destructive as Contempt, but these can add up to the development of contempt over a period of time.


This involves turning a specific behaviour (something your partner did) into a statement about his or her character (the type of person he or she is).


You might be guilty of being defensive, if you often find yourself playing the victim in tough and controversial situations.

Take being late to a cousin’s wedding, for example. Are you the first to say, “It wasn’t my fault!” when you finally arrive? Or do you think it over before you accuse the other person, realizing you probably shouldn’t have taken a 2-hour shower when you only had an hour to get ready?

Taking responsibility for your role in a tough situation can be uncomfortable, but it’s often what keeps a bad situation from escalating, says Dr. Gottman.


Ignoring your partner at a heated situation or blocking off conversation is also toxic for a relation and may lead to contempt.

Other supposed predictors of Divorce


Other than the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, there are other indicators that you should pay attention to in order to take control of your relationship and your life.

Not able to land on decisions


If you and your partner cannot come to agreements and negotiations on most matters, it simply implies that you and your spouse are not successful in conveying messages with each other in order to work as a group.

You feel like you are always compromising


If you consistently think and feel like you are compromising your needs and wants in your relationship, you might need to rethink and look at what you are getting out of the relationship.

You and your partner have different desires


On the off chance that you and your life partner understand that you have distinctive wants, objectives and interests, and that you like or prefer to be with somebody who matches with those preferences, then may demonstrate probability of separation. “What are the reasons you would surrender for breaking with somebody? Discussing goals with each other and finding if there is common ground.

You do not communicate well


According to Dr. Gottman, couples who turn to hollering, criticism, stonewalling and defensiveness will be more likely to get in a separation, particularly the young, newly married couples. If you find yourself unfit and unable to successfully interact with your better half, consider seeing a therapist to help give a protected outlet and help in interpretation.

You are keeping score


Playing tit for tat and keeping track of who is winning can show potential for divorce, as it influences the couple to concentrate on counting, amusements and winning rather than affection, correspondence and pardoning. Relinquish the aggressive vitality and concentrate on boosting each other’s prosperity and joy.

Try not to Panic


All in all, the most crucial and important point is that it is completely normal to show these kinds of behaviours once in a while.

It is when these negative behaviours occur in excess which causes concern in between couples.

If we just figure out how to avoid the negative behaviours and replace it with a positive one, we will surely make the relationship even stronger.

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The Biggest Predictor of Divorce

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