Your Style of Communication is the Best Predictor of Whether Your Marriage Will End in Divorce

Divorce is Not Your Only Option
My fascination for learning as much as I can about the psychological aspects of why people divorce has shaped my professional career. On a more personal level, I have more insight as to why people divorce and how to stop a potential divorce from occurring. Some of my favorite relationship experts include Harville Hendrix, Susan Anderson, Pia Mellody and John Gottman. Based on my professional experience, I think many clients could have avoided divorce, but instead, they give up on professional marriage counseling or refuse to attend, and instead, they see me to help them navigate the legal process of separation and divorce.

Stop Your Divorce by Learning How to Communicate (Effectively)

Your style of communication is the best predictor of whether your marriage will end in divorce. Stop your divorce by learning how to communicate. In this blog, I’m covering the number one reason people divorce: communication meltdown.

The Divorce “Whisperer”: Dr. John Gottman

My all-time favorite expert on marriage, divorce and problems with communication is John Gottman. Dr. Gottman has been the leading expert in this field for many decades. In fact, he came up with the famous “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” principle. According to Dr. Gottman, there are four communication “types” that better predict the chances of divorce, than any other factor. In his famous study conducted in 1992, Dr. Gottman accurately predicted the rate of divorce in couples he was studying using the Four Horsemen model 94% of the time.
So, which communication types are more likely to lead to divorce? Put another way, to stop your divorce or to divorce-proof your marriage, make sure you don’t fit in one of these categories:

Dr. Gottman: The Four Horsemen (or bad ways to communicate)

1. Critical communicators: Do you have a tendency to attack your spouses personality, instead of narrowing in on what is making you upset? For example, if your husband forgets your anniversary, are you more likely to say, “You’re such a selfish person. I can’t believe you forgot our anniversary?” Or, would you more likely confront your spouse with the following statement: “I’m really hurt that you forgot our anniversary?” If you attack your husband’s personality or character traits, you may be more likely to divorce.

2. Communication by contempt: This style of communication is similar to that used by a critical communicator, but it’s more insidious, mostly non-verbal. Examples include communication by eye-rolling or by snickering at your spouse when you’re upset. When you communicate in this form, your spouse can feel nothing but disrespected. Can you see why? Imagine your spouse telling you that you forgetting an anniversary makes her feel ignored or unimportant. If you disagree, and you mutter, “Whatever,” that is an obvious sign of disrespect and invalidation of your spouse’s feelings.

3. Defensive communication: Personally, I think we’re all guilty of this style of communication to some degree, but I guess it’s the level of defensiveness that sets us apart from being a true defensive communicator. Do you routinely deny responsibility and blame your spouse for your behavior? If so, I suggest changing your method of communication.

4. Stonewallers: Stonewalling and ignoring go hand-in-hand. Men, according to Gottman, are more likely to stonewall, than women. Although we may all be guilty of stonewalling, it becomes a problem if you use it regularly. A person who stonewalls is someone who refuses to acknowledge someone by ignoring him/her or refusing to interact/respond. If your wife says, “I wish you would compliment me more because I wonder if you really find me attractive,” do you respond by saying, “I do find you attractive, and I will try harder to make you know this?” Or, do you respond to your wife with nothing but a blank stare?

The good news is that you can divorce-proof your marriage if you adopt a healthy style of communication. If your method of communication can be described as stonewalling, contemptuous, defensive, or critical, then according to Dr. Gottman, you are probably headed for divorce.

If you’re looking for an experienced Virginia family law attorney or divorce lawyer, contact Keithley Law, PLLC, PLLCtoday by calling (703) 454-5147 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office.

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