The Four Predictors Of Divorce (The Four Horsemen Of Apocalypse)

With the rise of 21st Century, we are seeing a vicious pattern of escalating divorce rate. Like the price of the property and real estate, the divorce rate is also shooting to the sky-high limit and with it, there is increasing research and evidence pointing the negative impact of divorce on society.

Social relationships play a vital role in health and wellbeing, and it follows that loss experiences like marital relations can be highly stressful for some people.

The experience of separation or divorce confers risk for poor health outcomes, including a 23% higher mortality rate. However, most people cope well and are resilient after their marriage or long-term relationship ends. Despite the fact that resilience is the most common response, a small percentage of people (approximately 10–15%) struggle quite substantially, and it appears that the overall elevated adverse health risks are driven by the poor functioning of this group. 

Many of our most deeply felt emotions are expressed in the context of close relationships like marriage, and relationship stress or loss can be profoundly difficult for some people.

Nearly three decades of research evaluating the impact of family structure on the health and well-being of children also demonstrates that children living with their married, biological parents consistently have better physical, emotional, and academic well-being. 

Two large meta-analyses, one reported in 1991 and the other reported ten years later in 2001, showed that “children with divorced parents continued to score significantly lower on measures of academic achievement, conduct, psychological adjustment, self-concept, and social relations” (Amato and Keith 1991; Amato and Booth 1997 as quoted in Amato 2001).

With facts and figures rising from different research by the scientific community on the negative impact of divorce in mind, we need to delve into the pattern and highlight predictors that result in divorce or separation in marital bliss.

Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington has done extensive research on what causes a marriage to work. You may know Dr. John Gottman as “the guy that can predict divorce with over 90% accuracy.” His life’s work on marital stability and divorce prediction has been well documented in the American national media. He and his team have also arrived at some important conclusions as to what causes divorce. From their research, they have found four predictors of divorce. Based on these four factors, which they call ” The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse “, they can predict with more than 90℅ accuracy who will divorce. These four predictors of divorce are

Criticism: Communication comes across as attacking your partner’s personality. It is often stated in universal terms – ” You never” or “You’re too lazy”. The complaint against something a partner has done is voiced as an attack against the personality of the partner rather than the deed. These harsh personal criticism of other partner which become harsher when more a spouse feels his or her complaints go unheard or ignored. Women are more likely to criticize their husbands in return husband’s start to stonewall and shot up of heart rate of wife’s are recorded as a consequence signaling high distress.

Contempt: Any statement or non-verbal behavior that tries to elevate ourselves to a higher ground, spouse shows disrespect to partner’s feelings and emotions by put-downs, mocking, rolling your eyes, sneering. When one spouse shows this expression of contempt, the other, in an emotional exchange, registers a jump in heart rate of two or three beats per minute. Gottman found, if a husband shows contempt regularly, his wife will be more prone to a range of health problems, from frequent colds and flu to bladder and yeast infections, as well as gastrointestinal symptoms. And when a wife’s face show disgust, a near cousin of contempt, four or more times within a fifteen minutes conversation, it is a silent sign that the couple is likely to separate within four years. In contempt, a person focuses on the qualities they dislike in their partner and builds up these qualities in their mind. You think yourselves as superior and treat your partner as inferior.

Defensiveness: Countering a perceived attack often with a defensive counter-attack. The negative communication is escalated and goes out of control. When we become defensive, we don’t take any responsibility for the part we play in the negative communication. We always think that it is our partner fault and we are the victims, not focusing on the part played by us in a bad case scenario or what steps we could take to stop situations to get out of hand.

Stonewalling: Avoiding contact and engagement with the spouse so that he/she feels ignored or invalidated, often results in non-cooperation. The stonewaller just goes blank and as a result, withdraws from the conversation by not responding and without any expression. Stonewalling is the alarm that signals extreme trouble in marital relations. In 85% of cases, stonewallers are men. On the continuous basis, it is devastating for the health the of relationship. It cuts off all possibility of working out disagreements in the relationship through conversation.

One study of 373 newlywed couples, for example, found that couples who yelled at each other, showed contempt for each other, or shut off the conversation about an issue within the first year of marriage were more likely to divorce as far as 16 years down the road.

Divorce and parental separation are damaging to children, families, the economy, and society as a whole.

Therefore, it is both responsibility of men and women as the parent, social being, citizen, member of the community to try to minimize the rising number of divorce which would be ultimately beneficial for all.

We need to be emotionally intelligent to tackle this threat and also educate our childrens.  Criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling needs to be end in the marital relationship. So that the demon of increasing divorce rate could be annihilated.

Here’s the good news. Dr. Gottman’s ability to predict divorce is contingent on behaviors not changing over time. So, first, we need to change our behavior against our spouses and try to deal them gently and kindly, starting from hearing their side of the story as civilized and normal communication is necessary ingredients of all types of relationship. Try to suppress feelings of anger, disgust and animosity in our relations and need to point out bad deeds in one another by not attacking the personality of our partners, just to remind them, how good they are but only need little work on certain areas for further improvement. To stop a relation from falling apart continuous efforts are required from both sides, it’s not one time or one sided game.

Remember that children learns to how to deal emotions from their parents, if they experience such type of negative feelings in their early age, it will be harbinger of trouble in their relations in future and therefore, it is mutual responsibility of both partner to remain modest and learn to compromise for well-being and better future of children.

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2 Comments

  1. Don Cole says

    Thank you Asad for sharing Dr. Gottman’s insights with your readers. I am Dr. Don Cole, Clinical Director of The Gottman Institute in Seattle. If there is a way for us to offer support to you, please let us know.

    1. Asad Ali Khan says

      To my great pleasure to have words of appreciation and your comment on my post “Four predictors of divorce” it is indeed a honour to be felt always and would be helpful in the days to come and rather a great source of inspiration in my future career. I shall always be looking for your compliments/advise in future too for better shaping of my career and also any other support as you may consider and deem appropriate. I once again thank you from the core of my heart.

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