With the divorce rate as high as it is, about 50% for baby boomers and 40% for the other marrying age generations down the line, it may seem like there is nothing you can do to ensure that you and your spouse or partner will stay together. But nothing can be further from the truth. In fact, there is plenty of research that has come out that can tell us what makes couples stay together. Dr. John Gottman is at the forefront of this research. He is said to be able to predict divorce with 94% accuracy. His secret isn’t some unreachable scientific jargon; it’s actually things your grandmother might tell you over a nice cup of tea. However, he does have the statistical data to back up his conclusions. The first thing Gottman says is that for every negative interaction a couple takes part in they need to have five positive ones to counteract that negative. Negative interactions are seen as dismissive body language, a negative comment or eye rolling. Positive interactions include a loving look, a positive comment, and a hug or kiss. One caveat is that these interactions need to be genuinely positive. You can’t fake it. More than likely your partner will know. Remember that after work you need to slow down and become more in tune with your partner. Take some time for both of you to reconnect each day. Reflect on all the positive qualities that your partner has and what they do for you and the positive qualities that they bring into the relationship. This will help you to interact with them in a more genuinely positive way.
The next thing we can learn from Dr. Gottman’s research is what he calls the “four horseman of the apocalypse.” These four deadly interactions as they are called are toxic to a relationship. Avoid these at all costs and your relationship has a better chance of staying together. They are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Criticizing your mate from how they dress to their personal habits to how they handle things can put a real damper on the relationship. Certainly there are behaviors you can tolerate in a relationship and those that you can’t. Learn to know the difference and come to accept those that you must. None of us are perfect. We all have faults. If we want full acceptance and unconditional love we must first learn to give these things. Contempt poisons a relationship outright; passive-aggressive behavior, sarcasm, vicious barbs and more. This is often one fight that has been raging on a long time. Underneath it all someone’s needs aren’t being met or there is a personality conflict that never got resolved. When we don’t receive what we are looking for in a relationship we start to feel insecure. We get defensive. But this defensiveness stands in the way of real communication, of revealing the problem and working together as partners to find a solution. The last type is stonewalling; when communication shuts down. This is one of the worst things that can happen in a relationship. Learn how to put these things past you and your relationship will be much stronger and happier for it. For more advice on this topic, read Getting Together and Staying Together: Solving the Mystery of Marriage by William Glasser, M.D. and Carleen Glasser.