Is Your Relationship Going to Last?
Most of us are familiar with the feeling of meeting a new romantic partner and hoping “this is it.”
It’s that desire to leave behind past disappointment, misunderstandings, and emotional hurt which clouds our ability to strategize ways to make a new relationship last.
No therapist can confirm with 100% certainty if a relationship will stand the test of time and external pressures- but that didn’t stop us from trying.
Drs. John and Julie Gottman have conducted extensive research that determines with 94% accuracy behavioral predictors of divorce/separation:
Criticism: This includes blaming, name-calling and general character assassination. It implies that your partner is defective and fundamentally wrong. Instead of criticizing, describe the issue or behavior as an external factor and gently explain your needs related to it.
Contempt: Contempt is displayed through sarcasm, eye-rolling, sneering and mockery intended to put your partner down. It implies feelings of disgust, authority and superiority. Contempt is the highest predictor of relationship dissolution. Instead of judging your partner for missing the mark, clearly describe your desires, needs, or wants and affirm positive behaviors.
Defensiveness: Defensiveness is an attempt to protect yourself and validate your innocence against perceived attacks. Even when we know we’re wrong, we will defend ourselves to avoid criticism (See #1). Instead of being on the defense, take responsibility, ask questions to de-escalate the conflict, and listen to understand not retaliate.
Stonewalling: Stonewalling entails withdrawing from interacting, listening or paying attention to your partner (i.e., avoiding eye contact, the silent treatment). It suggests that you don’t care or respect what they are saying and feeling. Instead of stonewalling, learn how to self-soothe and communicate if/when you need time to process conflict.
Disappointment, misunderstanding, and hurt are natural elements of two individuals with unique experiences and preferences sharing a life together.
In happy, long-term relationships, both partners strive to manage ongoing conflict through understanding rather than avoidance or forced resolution.