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The Human Experiment: Episode 2 – Predict If You Will Divorce

Imagine there was a test that could predict if you were going to get divorced. There is and it’s 94% accurate. All couples disagree, often about the same things. Professor Gottman has found it’s not if you argue it’s how you argue that predicts divorce. Gottman gets couples to talk about things they disagree about. Surprise, surprise all couples disagree. In fact those who stay married have about the same amount of disagreements as those who get divorced. The difference is how they disagree. When couples who are likely to get divorced argue they do four things. They demonstrate contempt. The say things like: “You jerk! You Idiot! You always say that!” Or their verbal communication might sound okay but their non-verbal says it all: “No that’s fine, I don’t mind, let’s do it your way. Cause, we always do it your way!” Divorcing couples are defensive – they avoid taking responsibility. They stonewall, instead of listening and trying to understand they ignore — guys — I’m looking at you. And they criticize – they break each other down. By observing just a single disagreement Gottman has been able to predict divorce with 94% accuracy.

Couples who are likely to stay married forget about trying to be right. They know that you can’t be right and be married at the same time! Instead of trying to be right they focus on making it right. They take responsibility, try not to criticize or get too defensive. Even while they disagree they demonstrate love and respect with statements like “I love you”. What a bizarre thought: I can disagree with you and love you at the same time? Sure you can. Overall for every one negative statement, couples that stay married express about five positives.

Now of course none of us do the stuff those divorcing couples do, right? Everyone does a little of that but if you do a lot of it you don’t have to rush to a divorce court. If you replace the stonewalling with listening; the defensiveness with personal responsibility and above all contempt with love, you’ll radically reduce your chance of a breakup — and your chance of a coronary. The stress of these relationships increases your risk of heart disease. Yip, some hearts break when they stay.

Waiting for your partner to change? Be the change you want to see in your relationship. Take in a deep breath and cut out the contempt. The next time you disagree, do it with love! Instead of trying to be right focus on making it right. Now experiment on yourself.

Justin Cohen is a professional speaker and author of four books & seven audiobooks. As a leading authority on human potential, with a postgraduate degree in Psychology, Justin Cohen speaks and trains internationally in the fields of motivation, sales, service and leadership. He has presented in nearly twenty countries, and in virtually every industry to an average of 10 000 people annually. Justin is a Certified Speaking Professional and a Southern African Speaker Hall of Fame inductee.