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Four Horsemen of Divorce: Reasons Why 90% of Couples Diverge
Four Horsemen of Divorce: Reasons Why 90% of Couples Diverge

There is no universal formula for love. But there are variables in the relationship equation that cause couples to break up.

Four Horsemen of Divorce: Reasons Why 90% of Couples Diverge

There are several scientifically proven ways to destroy a relationship. Dr. Robert Levenson and his colleague John Gottman conducted a longitudinal study that showed that there are four key factors that predict whether people will divorce in the first five years of marriage.

Levenson and Gottman observed more than three thousand pairs over different periods of time (some followed for 20 years). This allowed scientists to understand what exactly leads to rupture most often. Thanks to the work done, Gottman studied unhealthy unions so well that he learned to predict whether people will stay together in 90% of cases.

Levenson and Gottman named the reasons for the collapse of the relationship as the four horsemen - by analogy with the predecessors of the Apocalypse from the New Testament. Behind this metaphor lies the communication styles, and here are which of them, according to the researchers, are the most destructive.

The first horseman: criticism

The first reason for breakups: criticism

Wait, but we all heard that criticism is necessary! It helps a person understand what he is doing wrong and how to get better. This is true, but there is an important nuance to consider: not all criticism is equally useful.

It's one thing when you complain or evaluate a partner's behavior. It’s quite different when you make a judgment about himself. In this case, you are already attacking, and this will only lead to a loss of trust, which is the foundation of a relationship. When it cracks, everything else collapses.

Fighting criticism should be the one who resorts to it. Gottman calls his method of getting rid of aggression a soft start: it is necessary to use “I-messages” and avoid “you-accusations”: “It is important for me that you warn about delays. I feel abandoned and insignificant when it doesn’t happen.”

By itself, criticism does not lead to a family apocalypse. But if the first rider appears too often in your house, he paves the way for other harbingers, much more dangerous for the relationship.

Second Horseman: Contempt

Second reason for breakups: contempt

Following criticism, contempt rushes into your home on a red horse. Anyone who has been attacked feels insulted and rejected, and rushes to retaliate. The partner who started the quarrel is offended: instead of listening to requests and comments, he is attacked! Taunts, sarcasm and eye-rolling are used. Everyone tries to take a position of moral superiority, and instead of people they begin to say contempt: “I am better than you. And you are more insignificant than me."

The second rider is fueled by long-accumulated negative thoughts about the "second half" and breaks free in the form of insults. This inevitably leads to an escalation of the conflict. It is impossible to solve a problem when a partner communicates with you condescendingly, like a boss with a negligent employee. Phrases like: "I learned how to tell the time by the clock in five years, and when are you going to do it?" - only discourage the desire to meet.

The antidote to contempt is to cultivate a culture of appreciation and respect in your union. Gottman proposes for this his own method, which he called small things often - "frequent trifles." He explains that small, deliberate expressions of gratitude and love for the longevity of a relationship carry much more weight than grandiose extravagant gestures. So a sincere "thank you" or the question "How was your day?" are great ways to avoid contempt.

Third Horseman: Defense

The third reason for breakups: defensiveness

He follows the first harbinger and usually rides into a relationship riding on righteous anger.When we are faced with criticism, we often take a defensive position: it is a natural reaction to defend in the event of an attack.

But if the partner rejects the question you are raising, then the problem is not solved, and the conflict continues to grow. It is not worth taking a defensive position: this way we not only avoid responsibility for our mistakes, but also shift the blame onto another person.

The third rider should be stopped, admitting his own mistakes: “Sorry, I let you down. I should have set myself a reminder. Next time I will! Do not think that I ignore your feelings: I am very sorry that you were worried about my forgetfulness."

Fourth horseman: stone wall

The fourth reason for parting: refusal to dialogue

The fourth horseman appears on the heels of criticism or contempt. During the conflict, one of you simply leaves the interaction: he is silent, turns away or refuses to continue the conversation, referring to being busy or tired. Usually this does not happen right away: the partner turns into a "stone wall", facing too long with the previous three harbingers of the collapse of the relationship.

When you make an effort to solve a problem and try to explain your feelings, there is nothing worse than the other person who ignores the effort. A person who stumbles upon a "stone wall" accumulates anger, frustration, and rage. And when they break out, it can easily lead to the end of the relationship.

At the same time, one must remember that the one who has chosen the avoidance strategy is also overwhelmed with emotions. Probably, he is simply not able to continue the conversation and therefore hides from him. A pause is needed, and a safe way to do it must be found. You cannot interrupt the dispute unilaterally: the partner will simply interpret this as another obstacle.

Create your own neutral signal to communicate that I can no longer continue this conversation. It can be anything - a raised hand or a word. By the way, if the signal is ridiculous and funny, then you may find that its very use helps defuse the situation. So the cry "Introduce the flygegeheim!" may well fit.

The pause should last at least 20 minutes: this is how long the body takes to calm down physiologically. Better to do something relaxing - take a shower, read a book, play match 3, or meditate. After that, you can return to the conversation. It is imperative to do this, otherwise your brake light will become just another way to go into the defensive.

Being able to spot the four horsemen in time is the first step towards destroying them. So try not only to fight, but also to watch how it happens: this will help you maintain the relationship and feel happier in it.

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