bad omens

We’ve all heard divorce rates such as the one that states that 50% of all marriages end in divorce. While this may not actually be the case (there is some indication that, for instance, 70% of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary, up from roughly 65% of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s, and couples who wed in the 2000s are divorcing at even lower rates, according to the New York Times in 2014), you may be wondering if your relationship is in danger of “going through the Big D.” And now that same sex couples are increasingly joining traditional couples in the sacred bonds, are we going to see the numbers increase?

bad omens

Predicting divorce may be part of the key to an antidote for divorce. Research has actually been done in this area by Dr. John Gottman. Dr. Gottman found that for couples who would eventually divorce, when they talked about an area of disagreement, there was slightly more negativity than positivity, as compared to those couples who would stay together — 1.25 times more negative than positive, in fact. But for the couples who were in stable, happy relationships — couples who reported liking one another — they had a ratio of positive to negative interactions of 5:1 (positivity was expressed five times more than negativity) when discussing an area of disagreement. When relationships were happy, the ratio was 20:1 of positive to negative expressions when simply conversing.

So, take a look at your relationship and think about how often your interactions are positive, how often they are negative. It may sound like common sense, but this is common sense backed up by research: knowing how to nurture good interactions in your relationship is one key to staying together.

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corroding batterycorroding battery

Is your relationship doomed? It might be, if contempt runs rampant — it is the best predictor of divorce.

How to avoid being contemptuous toward your spouse:

  1. Avoid sarcasm (comments like, “I’ll bet you do!” or “Oh, that was super funny” in a sneery tone of voice).
  2. Avoid body language that often goes along with sarcasm or can simply stand alone as a response (rolling your eyes, smirking one side of your cheek into a dimple). These are actually cross cultural signals of contempt.
  3. Don’t make “jokes” at the expense of your partner, or make universal comments about his/her gender (again, usually accompanied by the gestures in #2).

Do instead:

  1. Keep the focus of your responses and interactions on yourself instead of on your partner, describing your own feelings and needs.
  2. Create a culture of appreciation in your relationship through positive interactions.
  3. Work on a positive habit of mind instead of scanning for the negative around you.

ContemptContempt

Why is it important to avoid contempt? Contempt, which is to put someone down and/or put yourself on a pedestal at the expense of another, is one of the best predictors of divorce all on its own. But along with criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling, contempt can predict almost certain doom for any relationship. Contempt has also been linked to predicting the number of infectious illnesses the recipient will experience over a four year period. Powerful stuff, just like battery acid!

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Why are there so many jokes about relationships and marriage? It seems at least half are about sex and the loss of romance and passion. How is passion kept alive over the long haul? Psst! The secret, bend close, is … friendship! — Surprised? If your partner has been a good friend lately you are more likely to be in the mood to play together and have fun. But with kids, work, and all the stress of modern life, you might ask, how the heck are we to find time for that? This is challenging, and the answer to that is as specific as the couple.

couple on a date

Here are some ideas:

  • Date night. You might have heard of this and thought it was corny, but if you want to keep romance and passion alive, keep dating your partner! Dates are times to catch up and stay in tuned with your partner’s world. This is key to any friendships (pssst, the secret, remember?).
  • Have moments through the day that you connect habitually, if only for a moment: a kiss goodbye before work, a kiss hello (make this one long and slow), a quick back scratch before sleep.
  • Check-ins at the end of the day about how your days went.
  • Going for a hike on the weekend.
  • Watch a movie together once a month and talk about it.
  • Cultivate a mutual hobby and do activities around this weekly or monthly.

You get the idea! Have activities and habits in your life together that cultivate closeness and friendship and the passion and romance in your life will thrive.

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LeMel Firestone-Palerm, LMFT, LPCC, CGT
LeMel Firestone-Palerm, LMFT, LPCC, CGT About LeMel...
SFBayCounseling.com
LeMel Firestone-Palerm, LMFT, LPCC, CGT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist MFC 42162
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor LPC 1534
Certified Gottman Therapist