Marriage Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.
It’s fair to say that very few people plan to get divorced as they’re getting married. Wouldn’t it be nice, then, if there were some way to predict who might be likely to get divorced, and why?
Surprisingly enough, there is an accurate predictor of divorce. Perhaps just as surprisingly, it doesn’t involve shockingly bad behavior, such as any kind of abuse. Writing for Huff Post, Brittany Wong cites renowned marriage researcher John Gottman in identifying the key predictor of divorce: It’s “contemptuous behavior like eye-rolling, sarcasm and name-calling.” Contempt is followed closely by “criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling (emotionally withdrawing from your partner).”
With that in mind, here are some tips for identifying subtly contemptuous behavior and how you can avoid it.
“Realize that delivery is everything.” Eye-rolling, snickers and sarcastic comments may not seem to be a big deal. But the subtle message they carry is that you hold your partner in a bit of contempt. In your defense, you’re probably making those gestures for a reason — you want to deliver a message. So, don’t give up on delivering your message — just strive to deliver it in a respectful manner.
“Ban the word ‘whatever’ from your vocabulary.” Communication is subtle. So, have you given much thought to what you or anyone is subtly saying when they calmly dismiss a subject with whatever? The single most obvious message is that you consider what’s being said to be unimportant — it really doesn’t matter. Is that really what you’re trying to tell your partner?
“Stay clear of sarcasm and mean-spirited jokes.” It’s the rare person who truly finds their partner’s sarcastic comments funny. Unless your partner is that rare individual, ditch the sarcasm.
“Don’t live in the past.” People often simply let a snide comment go unanswered. The problem is that those comments build resentment. Suddenly, that resentment may be unleashed over a seemingly insignificant issue. What’s going on here? Actually, you or your partner may be making up for a thousand uncontested slights. The answer: confront problems as they occur, so that the past doesn’t come looking for you.
“Watch your body language.” Arguments or disagreements can escalate with hardly a word being said. Why? The simple answer is that everyone communicates with body language. If an argument gets overheated, agree to take a break. Think about the things you appreciate in your partner. When you resume the conversation, you may be amazed at how much less antagonistic you appear even if you’re saying basically the same things you said before. That’s you controlling your body language.
“Don’t ever tell your spouse, ‘you’re overreacting.’” In fact, they may be acting exactly how they mean to act. Try listening to what they’re saying. Then you can respond to the issue and not how it’s being delivered. (See delivery and body language, above.)
“If you find yourself being contemptuous, stop and take a deep breath.” People may develop a habit of being subtly contemptuous in their own particular way, perhaps through sarcasm. Try to recognize what habits you may have developed to communicate your frustration with a particular aspect of your partner’s behavior — being constantly late, for example. Then, when you spot yourself behaving this way, simply stop. Maybe take a deep breath, but whatever you do, don’t continue down that tired old path. You just may find you and your partner communicating more honestly than ever — and that can lead to all kinds of good things.