Is My Marriage In Trouble?

Happy senior couple outside in spring nature, hugging at sunset. Side view.

Did you know that a trained observer could watch you and your partner interact for many minutes and predict with high accuracy whether your marriage will survive or not? Does that sound incredible?

Let’s see…

In his bestselling book Blink, writer Malcolm Gladwell writes about psychologist John Gottman’s research on what attitudes raise the odds that a marriage will end in divorce. Since the 1980’s, Gottman has videotaped over three million married couples in his”love lab” near the University of Washington campus. The outcomes of each videotape have been examined according to a particular complex coding system which categorizes the feelings within the interaction and information from electrodes and sensors.

According to his calculations, even if he examines an hour of a husband and wife talking, Gottman can predict with 95% accuracy whether the couple will still be married fifteen years later. If Gottman watches a couple for fifteen minutes, he still has a success rate of 90 percent. A colleague of Gottman’s, Sybil Carrere, found that if they looked at only three minutes of a couple talking, it was possible to predict with fairly impressive accuracy which unions were going to make it and that would lead to divorce.

Four Horsemen

Gottman finds out a lot of what he wants to know by focusing on what he calls the “Four Horsemen: defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt.” Out of these four negatives, Gottman believes contempt the main emotion of all. Why is contempt so damaging in a union? How can this 1 emotion cause so much harm? Contempt differs from criticism because it entails looking back on another person and feeling superior to him (or her). If you have contempt for your partner, you’re feeling scorn or disdain toward him. You feel disgust, sickening dislike, profound aversion, repugnance, and repulsion.

You feel that he (or she) is under you and that he does not deserve respect. Gottman even discovered that the existence of contempt in a union can forecast how many colds a partner will get because “with someone you love express contempt toward you is so stressful that it starts to affect the functioning of your immune system.” And there is not any sex difference when it comes to contempt, according to Gottman’s research findings. In light of the information, how do you think that your interactions with your partner would be looked at? Are you thinking that you are off the hook because you have not said things like “You’re so dumb” to your spouse? Gottman has discovered that rolling your eyes when your spouse is talking to you is a traditional indication that communicates contempt. So is supposing a patronizing, lecturing voice.


The actual words used are just a part of what’s being communicated. The non-verbal part is also communication loudly. So what can you do if you recognize yourself or your partner in this report? If you recognize yourself, know that self-awareness of a behaviour is the beginning place for change. You can not change what you are unaware of. So you’ve taken the first positive step by looking carefully at your own behavior and beginning to be aware of the detrimental effect it’s having in your marital relationship.

You can share this article with your partner and ask if they would be prepared to go to marriage counseling so you can find the help and support you want to make the required changes. If your spouse fails, then begin individual counseling for yourself. If your partner is the one expressing contempt for you, write a handwritten letter saying how much you value your marriage and want it to be the best possible. Ask him (or her) to read this article because you don’t want to lose your loving feelings for him or for your marriage to end in divorce. State that you want to check at your part in things and how you may have to change and grow, and that you know that this would be simpler with the support of a marriage counselor.

Final note

Take responsibility for your part in the connection and show your willingness to check out your own behavior. Keep the focus on making positive changes that will help your union be satisfying to the two of you. Avoid blame and accusations. It’ll be much easier to address sensitive issues in the counselor’s office where you raise the chances that your spouse will probably be more receptive to what you need to say. If contempt is within your marriage, it is important to take immediate action to stop the accelerating downhill slide of negative emotions. Without intervention, your union could be on a crash course to divorce, and there is no time to waste.