Peter’s couple therapy blog

How Gottman predicts separation/divorce 3


Usually people stonewall as a protection against feeling flooded. Flooding means that your spouse’s negativity — whether in the guise of criticism or contempt or even defensiveness — is so overwhelming, and so sudden, that it leaves you shell-shocked. You feel so defenseless against this sniper attack that you learn to do anything to avoid a replay.

The more often you feel flooded by your spouse’s criticism or contempt, the more hyper vigilant you are for cues that your spouse is about to “blow” again. All you can think about is protecting yourself from the turbulence your spouse’s onslaught causes. And the way to do that is to disengage emotionally from the relationship.

A marriage’s meltdown can be predicted by habitual harsh startup and frequent flooding brought on by the relentless presence of the four horsemen during disagreements. Although each of these factors alone can predict a divorce, they usually coexist in an unhappy marriage.


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