Peter’s couple therapy blog

How Gottman predicts separation/divorce 1


A relationship’s breakdown can be predicted by habitual harsh startup and frequent flooding brought on by the relentless presence of the four horsemen (described in following posts 2 & 3) during disagreements. Although each of these factors alone can predict a divorce, they usually coexist in an unhappy marriage.

The most obvious indicator that a discussion (and the relationship) is not going to go well is the way it begins. When a discussion leads off with criticism and/or sarcasm, a form of contempt — it has begun with a “harsh startup.”

The research shows that if your discussion begins with a harsh startup, it will inevitably end on a negative note, even if there are a lot of attempts to “make nice” in between. Statistics tell the story: 96 percent of the time you can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first three minutes of the fifteen-minute interaction!

A harsh startup simply dooms you to failure. So if you begin a discussion that way, you might as well pull the plug, take a breather, and start over.

This and the following blog posts about Gottman’s research predicting separation are quoted from this source. You can find the other blog posts by clicking on “Gottman” in the Tag cloud on the right.

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