John Gottman, author of The Seven Prinicples for making Marriage Work, indicates that he can predict if a couple will divorce or stay happily married after watching and listening to them interact for 5 minutes with 91% accuracy!
His work is based on decades of research in his Seattle Love Lab, observing over 650 couples. His research suggests that making a marriage happy is suprisingly simple. Happy couples have a dynamic that keeps their negative thoughts and feelings about each other (which all couples have) from overwhelming their positive ones. He refers to this as an "emotionally intelligent marriage".
Happy marriages are based on the quality of the friendship, not the ability to resolve conflict. Friendship means the mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other's company. 67% of problems in a marriage are perpetual, which means that they are not solveable. Successful couples learn how to talk about their problems, rather than solve them.
Rediscovering or reinvigorating friendship doesn't prevent
couples from arguing. Instead, it gives them a secret weapon
that prevents disagreements from getting out of hand.
In knowledge, there is strength. The more you know your partner,
the better prepared you are to handle stress and conflilct.
The Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a metaphor depicting the end of times in the New Testament. Dr. Gottman uses this metaphor to describe communication styles that are poisonous, and can predict the end of a relationship. The Four Horsemen are listed below. The good news is, there are antidotes, and they are found in couples counseling!
Criticizing your partner is different than offering a critique or voicing a complaint! The latter two are about specific issues, whereas the former is an attack: an attack on your partner at the core. In effect, you are dismantling his or her whole being when you criticize.
When we feel accused unjustly, we use excuses so that our partner will back off. Unfortunately, this strategy is almost never successful. Our excuses send a message to our partner that we don’t take them seriously, we aren't interested in their needs, and that we are blowing them off.
Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws. In other words, stonewalling is when one person shuts down and closes off from the other. Rather than confronting the issues (which tend to accumulate!) with our partner, we make evasive maneuvers such as tuning out, turning away, acting busy, or engaging in obsessive behaviors.
When we communicate with contempt, we are truly cruel. Contempt is treating others with disrespect, mocking them with sarcasm, ridicule, name-calling, mimicking, and/or body language such as eye-rolling. Your partner is made to feel despised and worthless. Contempt is the most deadly, as it is the number one killer of relationships.