If you and your spouse fight, you are not alone. It is no secret that lots of couples fight, and some experts say that constructively working through disagreements (as opposed to simply ignoring them) can be healthy – and maybe even essential – for maintaining a successful marriage.
However, experts also say that how you and your spouse fight can be critically important. Take, for example, the work of Dr. John Gottman. Dr. Gottman is a psychologist known for his work in relationship analysis, and who has appeared on programs such as Oprah, Anderson Cooper, and NPR’s This American Life. He says that he can predict whether couples will get divorced with 90 percent certainty based solely on observing the way they fight.
Approaches to Fighting that are Likely to Lead to Divorce
Dr. Gottman has identified four patterns of reactions during marital disagreements that he says indicate incompatibility, and ultimately, a likelihood of divorce. Apparently not one to shy away from colorful language, he calls these patterns his “four horsemen of the apocalypse.” Dr. Gottman’s “four horsemen” are:
- Criticism – In a marriage, fighting should be about finding a resolution. Criticism involves attacking a spouse’s character or personality, and placing blame on their individual traits. For example, “You must be too stupid to remember to take out the trash,” uses criticism, while “I would like you to make more of an effort to remember” allows room for discussion.
- Defensiveness – Whether responding to criticism or a reasonable request, defensiveness can also lead to marital discord. Gottman and others suggest that, instead of making excuses or trying to convince your spouse that they are wrong, spouses should focus on acknowledging real issues and accepting responsibility when it is appropriate to do so.
- Contempt – Dr. Gottman calls contempt the single greatest predictor of divorce. From eye-rolling to insults and mockery, responses that suggest disrespect or feelings of superiority can often be a precursor for divorce.
- Stonewalling – The fourth reaction that can signal long-term incompatibility according to Dr. Gottman is stonewalling. If you or your spouse shuts down during fights, this can suggest either a lack of interest or an inability to cope with the level of conflict. In either case, Gottman suggests that this type of response may eventually lead to a divorce.
Seeking Help if You Are Considering a Divorce
Of course, none of this is to say that you should make any assumptions about what your spouse is feeling or how you should approach disagreements with your significant other. If you are contemplating a divorce and feel like you and your spouse could benefit from professional help, it may be in your best interests to speak with a counselor or psychologist. At Beller & Bustamante, P.L., we can also help you evaluate the legal, custody, property, and financial implications of ending your marriage, as well as your options for filing for divorce.
Contact Beller & Bustamante, P.L. for an Initial Consultation Today
At Beller & Bustamante, P.L., we bring a caring, compassionate, and experienced approach to finding cost-effective legal solutions that meet our clients’ needs. If you would like more information about filing for divorce in Jacksonville, Florida, please call (904) 288-4414 or contact us online today.