Table of Contents
- 7 Predictors of Long-Term Relationship Success
- Keeping Marriages Healthy, and Why It’s So Difficult
- Predict Your Relationship Future with Machine Learning
- Relationship App Data Source
- Preparing the Data
- Exploring Data with Machine Learning
- Building the Quiz
- Summarizing Key Findings
- For More Information
- Unhappy Marriage: Signs You’ll Get Divorced
- 1. The bride had pre-wedding jitters.
- 2. The couple got married young — or after age 32.
- 3. A family has two daughters.
- 4. Divorce runs in the family, so to speak.
- 5. A challenging child challenges a marriage.
- 6. Debt.
- 7. The groom frowned in his childhood snapshots.
- 8. One partner smokes — but the other doesn’t.
- 9. The family’s first child was born less than 8 months after the wedding.
- 10. The couple shacked up before marriage.
- 11. One partner is a nurse.
- 12. You live in Nevada. Or Maine.
- 13. The wife makes more money than the husband.
- 14. Or she’s older than him.
- 15. Someone thinks they’re always right.
- ‘Love is dead’: Social media reacts to Brangelina breakup
- 1. You are not happy
- 2. Most of your interactions are not positive
- 3. You find reasons to avoid your partner
- 4. Your friends or family urge you to end the relationship
- 5. Your instincts are telling you to get out
- 6. You live like roommates
- Sleep-Deprived Couples Rest Easy After ‘Sleep Divorce’
- 7. Everything is hard
- 8. One or both have changed values or priorities
- 9. There is a sudden change in behavior
- If you have more than 2-3 signs:
- 4 Warning Signs Marriage Therapists Use to Predict Divorce
- What Are the Signs You Are Ready for Divorce?
- Do you know the signs you ready for divorce? Want to know the top 3?
- Loss of respect is the biggest sign you may be ready for divorce
- Loss of attraction and intimacy is a common sign before divorce
- Lack of empathy is the surprising sign you are ready for divorce
- Are there other signs you are ready for divorce?
- Are there signs that you or your spouse are ready for divorce?
7 Predictors of Long-Term Relationship Success
Most of us want to meet and settle down with the “right” person, and most of us want such a relationship to last. Yet 53 percent of marriages in the U.S., 48 percent in Canada, 47 percent in the U.K., and 43 percent in Australia end in divorce.
What are some of the most important ideas when it comes to making your love last? Below are seven crucial factors, excerpted from my book, Seven Keys to Long-Term Relationship Success.
1. Do You Trust Your Partner?
Trust is the first and perhaps most important predictor of long-term relational success. Without trust, none of the other six keys that follow will have much meaning.
Ask yourself the following questions: In general, is your partner reliable and dependable? Can you count on your partner as the “rock” in your life? What about you for your partner?
For some, trust is a complicated matter. Some people trust blindly, while others have trust issues. Evaluate your partner’s trustworthiness based not upon unproven promises or wishful thinking, but on a strong overall record of dependability.
2. Are You and Your Partner Compatible in the Dimensions of Intimacy?
Authors Ronald Adler and Russell Proctor II identified four ways with which we can feel closely connected with our significant other. The four dimensions of intimacy are: Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, and Shared Activities.
Here’s a quick exercise to check you and your partner’s compatibility in intimacy. List the four dimensions as follows:
Partner A Partner B
Next to each dimension, rank whether this is a “Must” have, “Should” have, or “Could” have for you in your romantic relationship.
After answering for yourself, next ask your partner to rank, or on your own put down how you think your partner would prioritize. The more “must-must” and “must-should” combinations between you and your partner, the greater the possibility of an intimate relationship. Since relationships are not static, a couple may evolve in the dimensions of intimacy. Understanding one another’s priorities, and connecting in ways that are important to both partners help ensure long-term relational success.
3. What Type of Person Shows Up Within You in This Relationship?
Consider the friends in your life. Do different friends bring out different sides of you? Maybe you’re more reserved with one and more rambunctious with another. Perhaps you’re patient with some and quarrel with others.
Just as a friend can elicit a particular side of you, so does your partner. Consider the following questions: Does my better self show up when I’m with my partner? Does my worse self show up when I’m with my partner? Perhaps it’s a combination of both? If so, what situations tend to bring out a particular side of me? Fundamentally, do I like myself in this relationship?
Your honest answers to these questions offer important clues to the long-term health and happiness of your relationship.
4. Does Your Partner’s Communication Lift You Up or Bring You Down?
Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washington, a foremost expert on couple studies, concluded after over twenty years of research that the single, best predictor of divorce is when one or both partners show contempt in the relationship.
Contempt, the opposite of respect, is often expressed via negative judgment, criticism, or sarcasm regarding the worth of an individual. In communication studies, this is known as being “tough on the person, soft on the issue.” An effective communicator knows how to separate the person from the issue (or behavior), and be soft on the person and firm on the issue. An ineffective communicator will do the opposite — he or she will literally “get personal” by attacking the person, while minimizing or ignoring the issue.
Ask yourself the following: Does your partner’s communication lift you up, or bring you down? Is your partner’s communication with you “soft on the person, firm on the issue,” or the other way around? What about your communication with your partner?
If your relationship suffers from ineffective communication, the good news is that as long as you and your partner are willing, improvements can be learned quickly and put to use immediately. For more resources on this topic, download free excerpts of my books: How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People and How to Successfully Handle Passive-Aggressive People.
5. How do You and Your Partner Deal with Conflict in the Relationship?
Couples with poor conflict resolution skills typically engage in Fight, Flight, or Freeze behaviors. They fight and stay mad, sometimes holding grudges for years. They flee and avoid important issues by sweeping them under the rug. Or, after endless arguments with no resolution in sight, they freeze emotionally and shut down. Someone who freezes in a relationship typically goes through the motions on the outside, but has stopped caring on the inside.
Successful couples have the ability to solve problems and let it go. They focus on taking care of the issue rather than attacking the person. Even when angry, they find ways to be upset and stay close at the same time. Once the matter is resolved, they forgive and forget. Most importantly, successful couples have the ability to learn and grow through their interpersonal difficulties. Like a fine wine, their relationship improves with age and gets better over time.
6. How Do You and Your Partner Handle External Adversity and Crisis Together?
One of the traits of highly successful and enduring relationships is the partners’ ability to stand together in the face of external challenges. A true test of a relationship is whether two people have each others’ back when times are tough.
Consider these questions: Do external adversity and crisis bring you and your partner closer together, or pull you farther apart? In difficult life circumstances, do you and your partner act like adults or children? Can you and your partner share the bad times, or only enjoy the good times? As Adler and Proctor II state, “Companions who have endured physical challenges together… form a bond that can last a lifetime.”
7. Do You Have Compatible Financial Values?
Numerous studies have identified disagreements over finances as one of the top reasons couples seek marital counseling, as well as one of the top reasons for divorce. According to Jeffrey Dew of the National Marriage Project, “Couples who reported disagreeing about finances once a week were over 30 percent more likely to divorce over time than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times per month.”
Differences in financial values often appear early in a relationship. For example, who pays for the first date? What about the second date? And the third? Is your partner happy when you give a thoughtful but non-monetary birthday gift, or will he or she feel disappointed because you didn’t purchase something? Additional questions to consider include: Is your partner generally happy with what he or she owns, or is there a constant, insatiable desire to always acquire more? Are you and your partner able to solve financial difficulties and differences as a team?
Formulating with your partner a viable financial plan, paying attention to patterns of financial discontent, initiating conversations early to resolve differences, and seeking financial or couples counseling when needed are some of the keys to maintaining financial peace.
In closing, whether you’re single, dating, or in a committed relationship, these seven keys to long-term relationship success may serve as a “check-up” of your relational health and well-being. With self-honesty, openness, and a desire to grow, you can significantly increase the possibility of not only having a wonderful partner in life but making the love last. To grow old with your life mate, knowing that in each other’s warm embrace you have found Home.
Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. is available as a presenter, workshop facilitator, and private coach.
Keeping Marriages Healthy, and Why It’s So Difficult
Benjamin Karney is an Associate Professor of Social Psychology and co-director of the Relationship Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research focuses on how marriages change or remain stable over time, and in particular how relationship maintenance is constrained or enhanced by the contexts in which it takes place. Currently this includes research on marriages in the military, funded by the Department of Defense, and marriages in low-income populations, funded by the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development. He received the Gerald R. Miller Award for Early Career Achievement from the International Association for Relationship Research in 2004 and has twice been the recipient of the National Council on Family Relation’s Reuben Hill Research and Theory Award for outstanding contributions to family science. His textbook, Intimate Relationships (coauthored with Thomas Bradbury), will be published by W. W. Norton in January, 2010.
People rarely change their minds about subjects that are important to them. Those who favor gun control today are likely to favor gun control ten years from now, and those who vote for Democratic candidates today are likely to do so throughout their lives.
Yet intimate relationships, and marriages in particular, are the exception to this rule. After two people stand before everyone important to them in the world and publicly declare that they love each other and intend to remain together for the rest of their lives, everything social psychology has learned about the stability of publicly declared opinions suggests that these will be the most stable opinions of all (Festinger, 1957). Yet of course they aren’t. Despite the almost uniform happiness and optimism of newlyweds, most first marriages will end in divorce or permanent separation (Bramlett & Mosher, 2002), and the rate of dissolution for remarriages is even higher (Cherlin, 1992). In most cases, this represents a drastic and unwanted change in a highly valued belief, a change that is emotionally and financially costly to both members of the couple. Even in marriages that remain intact, newlyweds’ initially high levels of marital satisfaction tend to decline over time (VanLaningham, Johnson, & Amato, 2001). How can we account for this change? How is it that marital satisfaction declines so frequently, despite our best efforts to hold on to the positive feelings that motivate marriage in the first place? And what is it those couples that maintain their initial happiness are doing right?
What couples that stay happy are doing right
Understanding how marital satisfaction changes requires first understanding how thoughts and opinions about a marriage and a spouse are structured. Our representations of our partners are complex and multifaceted, consisting of perceptions that range from specific and concrete (e.g., “My spouse makes great pancakes.”) to global and evaluative (e.g., “My spouse is wonderful!”) (John, Hampson, & Goldberg, 1991). Although we are generally motivated to believe the best about our partners, we are not equally motivated or able to protect all our beliefs at all levels of abstraction (e.g., Dunning, 1995). For example, if my partner actually makes terrible pancakes, it is neither possible nor terribly important to believe otherwise. However, if I am to stay happily married, it is desirable to find a way to believe that my spouse is wonderful, and it is possible to do so by identifying and focusing on specific perceptions that might support this global belief.
That is what happy couples do. When couples in the early years of marriage are asked to rate which specific aspects of their relationships are most important to the success of their marriage, they generally point to whatever aspects of their relationship are most positive, and the spouses who demonstrate this tendency most strongly are the ones who are the happiest with their relationships overall (Neff & Karney, 2003). This selection process does not happen only at the beginning of the relationship. Over time, as specific aspects of the relationship change, with some parts becoming more positive and some becoming more negative, the couples who stay happiest overall are the ones who change their beliefs about what is important in their relationships accordingly, deciding that whatever aspects of the marriage have declined must not be so important after all (Neff & Karney, 2003). As a consequence of this continued process of selective attention, global evaluations of a marriage tend to be pretty stable from day to day, as these are the evaluations we are motivated to protect, but perceptions of specific aspects of the marriage tend to vary, more positive on good days and less positive on bad days (McNulty & Karney, 2001).
So what happens to those less positive specific perceptions? They don’t disappear. Even happy newlyweds readily acknowledge that their partners are not perfect in every way (Neff & Karney, 2005). Staying positive about the relationship requires that spouses find ways to integrate their perceptions of specific problems and disappointments within an overall positive view of the marriage. One way spouses can do this is by generating explanations for a spouse’s failings that limit any broader implications those failings may have. For example, if my spouse is distant and withdrawn one evening, deciding that my spouse’s behavior is a symptom of a difficult day at work (rather than a sign of a lack of interest in me) means that the behavior has no global implications for my marriage. For spouses who tend to make these sorts of charitable explanations for their partner’s disappointing or irritating behaviors, global evaluations of the marriage remain relatively stable from day to day even when perceptions of specific aspects of the relationship are fluctuating. For spouses who make less charitable explanations, blaming each other for faults and missteps, specific perceptions and global evaluations are more closely linked, such that the entire marriage seems less rewarding on days when specific elements are bad and the entire marriage seems more rewarding on days when specific elements are good (McNulty & Karney, 2001). In other words, making charitable explanations severs the link between specific negative perceptions and global evaluation of the marriage, leaving the global evaluations more resilient. Couples who are able to acknowledge their partner’s faults while maintaining positive views of their marriage overall have more stable satisfaction over time (Karney & Bradbury, 2000) and they are less likely to divorce in the early years of marriage (Neff & Karney, 2005).
Why is maintaining a relationship so difficult?
If this sort of integration is so beneficial, and if happy newlyweds are already doing it, why do newlyweds’ initially high levels of marital satisfaction nevertheless decline so frequently? The short answer is that making allowances for a spouse’s inevitable shortcomings is difficult, and especially so because marriages and other intimate relationships do not take place in a vacuum. The way that spouses think about and respond to each other is a product of broader forces that affect marriages and intimate relationships. As research identifies more of the processes that contribute to stability and change in marital satisfaction, models of these processes have expanded to account for those broader forces. One framework that attempts this is the Vulnerability-Stress-Adaptation Model of Marriage (i.e., the VSA model; Karney & Bradbury, 1995). Consistent with the research described above, the VSA model (see Figure 1) describes adaptive processes (e.g., solving problems, explaining each other’s behavior) as directly affecting how marital satisfaction changes over time. The model further suggests that these processes themselves are facilitated or constrained by spouse’s enduring vulnerabilities (e.g., cognitive styles, personality traits, childhood experiences) and the stressful circumstances they encounter outside the relationship (e.g., work load, financial strains, health problems).
Figure 1: The Vulnerability-Stress-Adaptation Model of Marriage (Karney & Bradbury, 1995)
Research informed by the VSA model suggests two general reasons why spouses’ attempts to maintain their initially high marital satisfaction may fall short over time. First, some people are naturally better at it than others. For example, when asked to write open-ended paragraphs about issues in their marriages, some spouses recognize that there can be two sides to every conflict and that compromises are possible. Others write only about their own perspective, failing to recognize that other perspectives are possible, let alone valid. When couples who have written these paragraphs are then invited to discuss real marital issues, the ability to recognize multiple perspectives emerges as a significant predictor of the quality of their discussions, as rated by outside observers (Karney & Gauer, in press). Where does this ability come from? A likely source is exposure to more or less successful problem-solving in early childhood. Indeed, wives whose parents divorced when they were children and husbands whose childhood family environments were highly negative also have more difficulty resolving problems together, and are at risk for declines in marital satisfaction as a result (Story, Karney, Lawrence, & Bradbury, 2004).
Second, maintaining a relationship takes energy, and in some contexts that energy is in short supply. It is not enough that couples have the ability to address problems effectively if they lack the capacity to exercise those abilities in the moment. Unfortunately, in the context of stress, even couples who are normally effective at maintaining their relationships may find it difficult to do so. To evaluate this possibility, recently married couples were asked about the kinds of explanations they made for each other’s negative behaviors every six months for the first four years of their marriages (Neff & Karney, 2004). At each assessment, they were also asked to describe and rate the stressful events they had been exposed to outside of the marriage (e.g., stress at work, financial strains, problems with friends or extended family, health issues, etc.) during each six month interval. Controlling for changes in their marital satisfaction over that time, the way spouses understood each other’s negative behaviors at each assessment was significantly associated with the stress they had been under during that period. When stress was low, spouses on average were able to generate more charitable explanations for each other’s negative behaviors, preventing those behaviors from affecting their global feelings about the marriage. But after periods of relatively high stress, the same spouses who had demonstrated this ability were significantly less likely to exercise it, and so were more likely to blame their partners for negative behaviors that they had previously excused.
In addition to highlighting the main effects of enduring vulnerabilities and stressful circumstances on marriage, the VSA model suggests that these relatively independent sources of influence on marital processes interact. That is, among individuals with comparable levels of enduring vulnerabilities, those who encounter stressful circumstances will have an especially hard time maintaining their relationships, and among individuals encountering similar levels of stress, the ones most at risk for relationship problems are the ones who also have numerous enduring vulnerabilities. Survey research that oversampled from low-income and underrepresented communities (Rauer, Karney, Garvan, & Hou, 2008) confirms these sorts of interactions, showing that the associations between relationship satisfaction and any particular constraint on adaptive processes (e.g., mental health problems, financial strain, substance abuse) becomes stronger in the presence of other risk factors.
So, why is it so difficult to maintain the initial positive feelings that characterize most newlywed couples? It is difficult because some disappointments are inevitable in any long-term committed relationship, because some spouses lack the ability to respond to those disappointments effectively, and because even spouses who have the ability may encounter stressful circumstances that prevent them from exercising their abilities when they are most needed.
Implications for helping couples succeed
Dominant approaches to strengthening marriages and other intimate relationships focus almost exclusively on adaptive processes, i.e., teaching couples a set of skills for resolving problems and dealing with disappointments when they arise (e.g., Markman, Stanley, & Blumberg, 1994). The VSA model and the research informed by it suggest that there may be a limit to what these approaches can accomplish. Individuals coping with significant personal vulnerabilities may not be able to change their behaviors. Even couples that know perfectly well how to respond to each other effectively may lose their capacity for effective adaptive processes when under stress. In light of these broader forces affecting relationships, policies that address individual well-being and current sources of stress on family life may be as effective at promoting healthy relationships as any interventions that target relationships directly. Research on the effects of public policies on marital outcomes supports this idea. In Norway, for example, after the government began offering cash incentives to parents that elected to forgo state-subsidized childcare and stay home with their children, divorce rates fell significantly even though the new policy did not target marriages directly (Hardoy & Schøne, 2008). Policies like these that simply make life easier for families and individuals may contribute to an environment that supports marriages and other intimate relationships. In such an environment, more spouses and partners may prove capable of maintaining their relationships on their own.
Cherlin, A. J. (1992). Marriage, divorce, remarriage (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Dunning, D. (1995). Trait importance and modifiability as factors influencing self-assessment and self-enhancement motives. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 1297-1306.
Festinger, L. (1957). A theory of cognitive dissonance. Evanston, IL: Row, Peterson.
Karney, B. R., & Gauer, B. (in press). Cognitive complexity and marital interaction in newlyweds. Personal Relationships.
Predict Your Relationship Future with Machine Learning
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, let’s explore a fun little Relationship App quiz that forecasts how long your relationship will last. Data from a Stanford University study, How Couples Meet and Stay Together (Rosenfeld, Michael J., Reuben J. Thomas, and Maja Falcon. 2018), was prepared and used to train DataRobot machine learning models. Then a small six question quiz was created after evaluating numerous variables and final outcomes from thousands of couples. Go ahead and give it a try.
Keep in mind that while the Relationships App was based on scientific studies, out-of-sample validation, systematically tuned machine learning models, and dozens of benchmarks with competing approaches.
Don’t take your results too seriously.
My husband and I both took the quiz and were pleased with our results. We scored a 98.6% probability of staying together for two more years. We’ve been together for more than 20 years already. It does seem to get easier for us over time. During our marriage, military lifestyle was our biggest challenge that tested us early on. Military lifestyle was not one of the six Relationship App quiz questions.
The Relationship App factors may or may not be causal. Predictions are based on the available Stanford University study data and six data scientist selected questions. Notably six questions are not comprehensive of relationship strengths or challenges.
Relationship App Data Source
The How Couples Meet and Stay Together study was designed to provide answers to the following research questions:
- Do traditional couples and nontraditional couples meet in the same way? What kinds of couples are more likely to have met online?
- Have the most recent marriage cohorts (especially the traditional heterosexual same-race married couples) met in the same way their parents and grandparents did?
- Does meeting online lead to greater or less couple stability?
- How do the couple dissolution rates of nontraditional couples compare to the couple dissolution rates of more traditional same-race heterosexual couples?
- How does the availability of civil union, domestic partnership or same-sex marriage rights affect couple stability for same-sex couples? This study will provide the first nationally representative data on the couple dissolution rates of same-sex couples.
The 4,002 study participants were adults from the United States of America. 3,009 study participants had a spouse or main romantic partner. Researchers oversampled self-identified gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults. Follow-up surveys were implemented one and two years after the main survey to measure couple dissolution rates. Additional follow-up surveys are also available if you are interested in the data.
Preparing the Data
To get research study data machine learning ready, a data scientist reviewed what data was collected and why. Then they shaped it for analysis in Python.
The structure of the study involved several waves of surveys for participants. The questionnaires asked (mostly) the same questions multiple times. The survey data was set up horizontally with each row of data corresponding to an individual couple. Each questionnaire was then appended as additional columns to the dataset; e.g., the question about housing type was denoted as five separate columns (one for each questionnaire) as PPHOUSE, PP2_PPHOUSE, PP3_HOUSE, PP4_HOUSE, and PP5_HOUSE. Naming conventions were not 100% consistent. A fair bit of data prep work had to be done to get all the columns correctly parsed.
Like many machine learning projects, the dataset needed to be flattened to one row per couple for lifetime of survey history with a target outcome. To get data into that format, raw survey data needed be pivoted while systematically identifying repeat questions.
The main interest for Relationship App project was to make predictions about relationship strength. Repeated survey results for a particular couple indicated whether or not the couple was still together. The surveys were taken around one year apart – not precisely a year apart. In cases where a couple ends their relationship, it was easy to calculate roughly how long they were together.
For couples that stayed together, how long that relationship would last was not observable until the relationship ends. There are methods for handling this issue (censoring). The data scientist didn’t go down that path for two reasons. First, he said those approaches tend to require many assumptions. Second, he mentioned a large proportion of the couples in the dataset stayed together.
For predicting relationship future outlook, he used a binary prediction target that was designed to indicate probability of a couple staying together for two years from a given date. In cases where no surveys were taken two years later, he dropped observations. If you want to see his Python code, check out the Relationship App Github project.
Exploring Data with Machine Learning
The modeling dataset was small with a little over 3,100 observations and 110 features. As a result, the best machine learning models were Generalized Linear Models (GLM). The top model out of DataRobot used a Ridit transform to standardize variables, compute median imputation, and fit an elastic net in order to perform regularization. DataRobot ran a grid search over the tuning parameters and ended up with several pretty strong models (out-of-sample AUC=0.897).
To reduce machine learning model complexity and narrow down how many features to use in a survey, the data scientist looked at the most important ones. Essentially, he wanted to find a small number of interesting features that would produce a good result. Here are the relative importance for the top 40 features.
Building the Quiz
To build an enjoyable short quiz with an acceptable level of prediction accuracy while also avoiding controversy or sensitive questions, the data scientist crafted six questions. The questions were designed to capture five to ten machine model features.
The survey questions ask about relationship status, how long a couple has been together, the age of each person in the couple, the highest level of education completed, number and ages of children, and how much couples interact with extended family. The answers to those questions were found to be the best predictors of how long your relationship will last.
Summarizing Key Findings
The final model ended up being a relatively straight forward logistic regression model with elastic net with median imputation and simple standardization. The standardized model coefficients for the model looked like this:
The Relationship App quiz converted all break-up probabilities and stay-together probabilities. A large coefficient indicated a higher chance of a break-up within the next two years; i.e., a lower chance of staying together.
What the data scientist learned:
- Non-casual relationships are robust. 94% of the people in the Stanford study that these models are based on stayed together. The folks involved in this study weren’t casually dating, but were instead involved in committed, monogamous relationships. Those tend to last.
- The more external acts of commitment that a couple makes, the more likely they are to stay together. The average prediction for a married couple in the holdout data was greater than 97%, while the average score for unmarried people was quite a bit lower,
- The data seems to support traditional sensibilities. For example, married couples that lived together before they got married are slightly more likely to break up than those that didn’t. This appeared to be true across all the models — even though this feature didn’t make it into final models.
- Big extended families with regular interaction appears to make relationships last longer.
- The data included counts of children in the household of certain ages. It turned out that having more children between 2 and 5 years old in the house is correlated with an increase in break-ups. This was not true for children of other ages. For parents with young children, hang in there.
For More Information
To learn more about why and how the Relationship app was designed, please read the original DataRobot series by Greg Michaelson .
- Introduction to Relationships App
- Preparing the Data for Relationships App
- Building the Models for Relationships App
- Inside Look: Relationships App Design Process
Let me start with a quote from Dr. Phil: “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” I’m not an avid watcher of Dr. Phil, but this particular line has always resonated with me. It is with this line in mind that behavioral integrity came into focus during the interviews. Thus, I also sought out the work of Cornell University’s Dr. Tony Simons, a globally recognized leader in the field of behavior integrity in the workplace. According to Dr. Simons, behavioral integrity is the “perceived pattern of alignment between an actor’s words and deeds.”1 It is in these psychological contracts that trust is developed in the leader-follower relationship. However, Simons explains, leading with complete behavior integrity has two sources of complexity. First is the simple nature of business complexities. The goalposts move on a project due to circumstances changing on the ground, and at times conflicting priorities arise. Second is the potential for communication breakdown.2
Although circumstances do impact direction and communication can break down, it is another form of behavioral integrity that I want to focus on. How many of you have had encounters, professional or private, where somebody tells you they’re going to do something and then doesn’t complete the task? When you follow up with them, they provide a roster of reasons as to why the job didn’t get done. For many of you, it’s easy to accept the justification for missed meetings, project deadlines and so on because you do the same. One of my best friends lives in New York, and we often talk about the city’s professional life. He’s told me that when someone says to you “I’ll call or text you to go grab a drink,” don’t hold your breath—the phrase is meaningless. Everyone knows it’s code for “I’ll see you when I see you.” So that led me to ask him, “How do you trust someone?” He just kind of shrugged.
Take a moment and reflect on a leader who has typically stuck to their word. How did this leader make you feel? Like they’ll be honest and are someone to be trusted? Now take a moment and reflect on a leader who struggled to follow through, who always had an excuse as to why commitments were left on the table. What kind of relationship would you have with this leader? Finally, ask yourself, where do you fall along the spectrum? Could you be complicit in a lack of follow-through?
Over the past 20 years I have come across many well-intentioned individuals who have difficulties setting boundaries for fear of disappointing their colleagues and friends. It is human nature to not want to disappoint your peers, so saying “yes” all the time is easier than saying “no.” The irony is that saying “yes” with no follow-through is worse than saying “no” at the outset. You end up letting your colleagues down and creating a potential vacuum of trust, at the minimum low expectations of follow-through.
What’s more, authentic leaders who are exceptionally high in behavioral integrity are committed to creating and managing expectations within the organization. When expectations are managed and trust is developed, organizational culture thrives and allows the leader to have the difficult conversations. In either case, when an authentic leader creates and fosters behavioral integrity, expectations in the organization are cultivated and managed, horizontally and vertically. When an authentic leader’s actions and behaviors are congruent, levels of trust, loyalty and engagement are raised.
1. Tony Simons, “Behavioral integrity: The perceived alignment between managers’ words and deeds as a research focus,” Organization Science 13, no. 1 (2002): 18–35.
2. Tony Simons, “What message does your conduct send? Building integrity to boost your leadership effectiveness,” Cornell Hospitality Report 14, no. 24 (2014): 6–10.
Unhappy Marriage: Signs You’ll Get Divorced
1. If you’re a woman who got married before the age of eighteen, your marriage faces a 48 percent likelihood of divorce within ten years.
Age matters. Study after study shows that the younger the married couple, the riskier the bond. The risk drops to 40 percent for women who married at age eighteen or nineteen, drops further to 29 percent for women who married at age 20 to 24, and drops even further to 24 percent for women who married at age 25 or older.
Matthew Bramlett and Mosher, William (2000): First marriage dissolution, divorce, and remarriage: United States, Department of Health and Human Services/National Center for Health Statistics, Advance Data, 23, 7-8.
2. If you’re a woman who wants a child—either a first child or an additional child—much more strongly than your spouse does, your marriage is more than twice as likely to end in divorce as the marriages of couples who agree on how much they do or don’t want a child.
“One of the patterns we consistently see is that women tend to be more discontented in relationships than men are,” says Stephanie Coontz, Director of Research and Public Education for the Council on Contemporary Families, “and women are the ones who tend to initiate separations and divorces.” Here’s one reason why.
Rebecca Kippen et al. (2009): What’s love got to do with it? Homogamy and dyadic approaches to understanding marital instability. Paper delivered at the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics Survey Research Conference.
3. If you have two sons, you face a 36.9 percent likelihood of divorce, but if you have two daughters, the likelihood rises to 43.1 percent.
• Anneli Rufus: Will You Ever Have a Baby?• Anneli Rufus: 15 Ways to Predict Divorce These findings by Columbia University economist Kristin Mammen echo other studies linking the births of girls with elevated divorce rates. A bright spot in Mammen’s research, however wan, is that after parents divorce, child-support payments show no gender disparity—girls receive no less child support than boys.
Kristin Mammen (2008): The effects of children’s gender on divorce and child support. Paper presented at the American Economic Association’s annual meeting.
4. If you’re a man with high basal testosterone, you’re 43 percent more likely to get divorced than men with low testosterone levels.
“This is something that evolutionary psychologists and everyday people should take account of,” says Coontz. “Hypermasculinity is neither an evolutionary benefit nor an adaptive trait, especially nowadays, when the best predictor of a successful marriage is not the specialization into two separate roles”—stereotypically male and stereotypically female—”but rather a convergence and a sharing of roles.”
Mazur, Allan. Lanham, MD: Biosociology of Dominance and Deference, Rowman & Littlefield, 2005, p. 125.
5. If your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, you are 22.7 percent more likely to divorce before that child turns eight years old than parents of a child without ADHD.
“ADHD is a very challenging diagnosis,” says The Complete Divorce Handbook author Brette Sember, “and raising a child with this disorder is expensive, stressful, and emotionally consuming. It’s definitely going to put a huge stress on a marriage.”
Brian Wymbs and Pelham, William (2008). Rate and predictors of divorce among parents of youth with ADHD. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76 (5), 735-744.
6. If you are currently married but have cohabited with a lover other than your current spouse, you are slightly more than twice as likely to divorce than someone who has never cohabited.
The same study by Ohio State University sociologists that produced this result also found that even those who cohabit only with their future spouses “are still 83 percent more likely to experience a marital disruption relative to those that did not cohabit prior to marriage.” Cohabitation statistics are hot buttons, used by some pundits to decry premarital sex and “shacking up.” A widely quoted 2003 study by Western Washington University sociologist Jay Teachman found that women who cohabit with anyone besides their future husbands face a raised divorce risk ranging from 55 to 166 percent, but that those who cohabit only with their future husbands face no elevated risk at all.
Anna M. Cunningham (2007): Premarital cohabitation and marital disruption across time: new results from the NSFH 3, paper delivered at the Population Association of America 2007 annual meeting.
7. If you didn’t smile for photographs early in life, your marriage is five times more likely to end in divorce than if you smiled intensely in early photographs.
Two tests, the first involving college yearbook photos and the second involving miscellaneous photos taken during participants’ youths, yielded this finding. “People who are optimistic— and that’s what smiles tend to show in childhood—find it easier to get along with people,” including the people they’re married to, asserts Coontz, who is also the author of Marriage: A History. Optimistic types “also find it easier to put up with periods in life that might be difficult.” Nonetheless, she warns: “Optimism is certainly not going to protect you from everything, so it’s no guarantee.”
Hertenstein, Matthew et al. (2009): Smile intensity in photographs predicts divorce later in life,
8. If your child has died after the twentieth week of pregnancy, during labor, or soon after labor, you are 40 percent more likely to divorce than if you had not lost a child.
Few catastrophes throw relationships into chaos like the death of a child. Distraught parents blame each other, says Susan Pease Gadoua, author of Stronger Day by Day: Reflections for Healing and Rebuilding After Divorce. When a child dies right before or after being born, “the woman who was carrying the child often gets told that she should have ‘taken better care’ of the child. What’s really happening is that these couples haven’t dealt adequately with their grief and they can’t form a bond anymore because this huge ball of grief is standing in the way like a barricade.”
Katherine Gold et al. (2010). Marriage and cohabitation outcomes after pregnancy loss. Pediatrics, 125 (5).
9. If you’re a woman who has recently been diagnosed with cancer or multiple sclerosis, your marriage is six times more likely to end in divorce than if your husband had been diagnosed with those diseases instead.
A study of “partner abandonment” revealed that husbands are six times more likely to leave sick wives than wives are to leave sick husbands. “Men have a much harder time being caretakers than women do,” Sember observes. “Men find it hard to juggle that kind of responsibility, particularly if the wife has always been the one to fill that role.” Moreover, “often women are more able to take time off from work to care for an ill spouse than men are.”
MJ Glantz et al. (2009). Gender disparity in the rate of partner abandonment in patients with serious medical illness. Cancer, 115 (22).
10. If you’re a Caucasian woman and you’re separated from your spouse, there’s a 98 percent chance that you’ll be divorced within six years of that separation; if you’re a Hispanic woman, the likelihood is 80 percent; if you’re an African-American woman, the likelihood is 72 percent.
This doesn’t surprise Coontz. “Unfortunately, women tend to let their anger and disappointment build up for too long before expressing it. They hint at what’s bothering them rather than being direct. By the time they’re mad enough to separate, something has died.” This gloomy news about separations, Coontz says, “tells women to be very direct about what they want and need to change, and tells men to listen to them.”
Matthew Bramlett and Mosher, William (2000): First marriage dissolution, divorce, and remarriage: United States, Department of Health and Human Services/National Center for Health Statistics, Advance Data, 23, 7-8.
11. If you’re a dancer or choreographer, you face a 43.05 percent likelihood of divorce, compared with mathematicians, who face a 19.15 percent likelihood, and animal trainers, who face a 22.5 percent likelihood.
Radford University industrial psychologist Michael Aamodt devised a formula for calculating the probabilities of marital success and failure based on the career of one of the spouses. “The Internet is rife with statements regarding occupations with high divorce and suicide rates,” says Aamodt, “but most of these statements are not based on research.” The study also found that massage therapists face a 38.22 percent likelihood of divorce, dentists face a slim 7.75 percent likelihood, and bellhops face a 28.43 percent likelihood.
Shawn McCoy and Aamodt, Michael (2010): A comparison of law-enforcement divorce rates with those of other occupations. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 25 (1), 1-16.
12. If you’re a farmer or rancher, you face only a 7.63 percent likelihood of divorce, joined by other low-risk occupations such as nuclear engineers, who face a 7.29 percent likelihood, and optometrists, who face a mere 4.01 percent likelihood.
In the Radford University study calculating divorce probabilities associated with occupations, the absolute safest marriages are those of agricultural engineers, who face a minuscule 1.78 percent chance of divorce. “Though occupational differences in divorce rates can result in some interesting discussions and theories,” says Aamodt, “the differences are most likely due to such non-occupational factors as age, race, income, and personality rather than the occupation itself.”
Shawn McCoy and Aamodt, Michael (2010): A comparison of law-enforcement divorce rates with those of other occupations. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 25 (1), 1-16.
13. If either you or your spouse have suffered a brain injury, your marriage faces a 17 percent chance of ending in divorce.
This is encouraging news, considering the high divorce rates associated with illness and other traumatic events. It’s not an eventuality that anyone wants to contemplate, but the researchers conclude, “The rate of divorce after brain injury may, in fact, be much lower than divorce rates for the general population.”
Jeff Kreutzer et al. (2010). The truth about divorce after brain injury. The Challenge, Winter 2010.
14. If you’re an African-American woman, your first marriage has a 47 percent likelihood of ending in divorce within ten years; for Hispanic women, the likelihood is 34 percent; for Caucasian women, it’s 32 percent; for Asian women, it’s 20 percent.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services study that produced these findings, one-fifth of first marriages end within five years and one-third end within ten years, across the board.
Matthew Bramlett and Mosher, William (2000): First marriage dissolution, divorce, and remarriage: United States, Department of Health and Human Services/National Center for Health Statistics, Advance Data, 23, 7-8.
15. If you’re a woman serving actively in the military, your marriage is 250 percent more likely to end in divorce than that of a man serving actively in the military.
A Rand Corporation study found that while 6.6 percent of military women’s marriages dissolved, only 2.6 percent of military men’s did. In every branch of the service and consistently over time, “rates of marital dissolution are substantially higher for women than for men,” write the study’s authors, who speculate that perhaps “the military selects for women whose marriages would be at increased risk regardless of their service.”
Benjamin Karney and Crown, John (2007). Families under stress: an assessment of data, theory, and research on marriage and divorce in the military, Rand Corporation monograph prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense/National Defense Research Institute.
Anneli Rufus is the author of many books, including Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto and the Nautilus Award-winning Stuck: Why We Don’t (or Won’t) Move On, and the coauthor of still more, including Weird Europe and The Scavengers’ Manifesto. Her books have been translated into numerous languages, including Chinese and Latvian. In 2006, she won a Society of Professional Journalists award for criticism.
1. The bride had pre-wedding jitters.
If the future Mrs. has cold feet, the couple’s risk of divorce more than doubles, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology. The good news? A groom with “I do” doubts has almost no impact on the future of the marriage.
2. The couple got married young — or after age 32.
Sure, conventional wisdom holds that getting married too early isn’t the best bet for a lasting union. “I often see couples in their 40s in counseling who got married too young and didn’t have experience with other partners or want different things now,” says Rachel Sussman, a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert. “Because there’s a very good chance that in 10 or 15 years, you’re going to be a very different person — and you should be.”
But a new study says that after age 32, a couple’s risk of divorce increases by 5% each year they wait to wed. Sussman attributes this to entrenched independence and a need for space.
3. A family has two daughters.
Sadly, it ups your chances to 43%. And even just having one daughter makes you 5% more likely to split, according to Columbia University economist Kristin Mammen. Parents with two sons, in contrast, face a nearly 37% risk. “We think it happens because fathers get more invested in family life when they have boys,” Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History and director of research for the Council on Contemporary Families, told The Daily Beast.
4. Divorce runs in the family, so to speak.
If your parents divorced, you’re at least 40% more likely to do the same. But if they got remarried, you have a staggering 91% likelihood of getting divorced.
5. A challenging child challenges a marriage.
Parents who deal with a child’s ADHD diagnosis are nearly 23% more likely to divorce before the child turns 8.
Money woes are an obvious marital stressor. Not only do many divorce risk factors correlate to poverty, but marital happiness dramatically decreases as couples don’t pay off their debts or take on new ones. And when one person is the big spender, according to one study, divorce can be 45% more likely. (Only extramarital affairs and substance abuse were stronger predictors!)
“There can be a problem when one partner works or just has a significantly bigger salary, and the other spends an exorbitant amount of money. Fighting over the Amex bill every month is just a dumb fight to have. They’ve got to be on the same page, and I think setting a budget is key,” explains Sussman.
7. The groom frowned in his childhood snapshots.
In two separate studies, psychologists evaluated peoples’ childhood and yearbook photos and then evaluated their current marital health. Their findings? People who frown in photos are five times more likely to divorce than people who smile. (Yes, this one’s especially, well, far-fetched.)
8. One partner smokes — but the other doesn’t.
When only one person in a relationship smokes, they’re 75% to 91% more likely to split than smokers who are married to another smoker. Why? “Different values and lifestyles can be problematic,” says Sussman.
9. The family’s first child was born less than 8 months after the wedding.
So, a shotgun ceremony is intuitively not the best way to start your union. But did you know it makes you 24% more likely to call it quits?
10. The couple shacked up before marriage.
Sure, cohabitation has been credited for decreasing the number of divorces overall. (One theory is that because couples who might otherwise divorce test the waters and fizzle beforehand, the couples who do marry are more committed.). But it’s still not necessarily helpful once you do wed: Multiple studies say living together pre-nuptials gives couples about a 12% higher probability that their marriage will fail.
11. One partner is a nurse.
Yes, certain occupations have higher divorce rates — and not just police and military personnel. Dancers and choreographers have a 43% divorce rate, according to a 2009 study in the Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology. Bartenders split from a spouse 38% of the time, while nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides face an almost 29% divorce rate.
12. You live in Nevada. Or Maine.
While much has been made of “red states” vs. “blue states” and marital trends, it’s not so simple. Some states have younger ages of marriage, lower incomes, and other demographic factors that contribute to divorce risk. But Nevada residents can probably just thank Las Vegas for their 14.6% rate of divorced people. Maine is second with 14.2%; Oklahoma trails at 13.5%. New York, in contrast, may only have 8.8% divorced residents, but it also has one of the lowest number of married residents. To explain, some researchers say that you’re more likely to get divorced in most “red states” — but only because you’re also more likely to get married there.
13. The wife makes more money than the husband.
Marriages where spouses earn roughly the same amount are more at prone to divorce than those where the wife earns less, according to a Swiss study of U.S. couples. And if the wife makes 60% or more of the family income, the risk of divorce is double that of couples where she doesn’t work at all.
14. Or she’s older than him.
Unfortunately, women who are one to three years older than their husbands are 53% more likely to end their marriage. According to the Australian paper, age disparities either way are associated with higher risk, especially if the man is younger. The study suggests it may be “due to differences in values
associated with birth control, or marital strain caused by power imbalances within the union.”
15. Someone thinks they’re always right.
Think you’re smarter than your spouse? By far, the biggest predictors of divorce are found in couples’ attitudes to each other. Famed researcher John Gottman claims to be able to predict a couple’s chances with 93% accuracy, based on four key traits which include being defensive and constant criticism. But he says the “kiss of death,” is contempt and seeing your partner as beneath you.
“It’s constant anger and disgust, passive-aggressive digs, eye-rolling, and yelling at your partner,” says Sussman. “When couples do that in a session, I say the research shows that if you keep doing that, there’s a really good chance you’re going to get divorced.”
Asher Fogle Writer When she’s not hunting for compelling personal stories or justifying her love for dessert, Asher can likely be found watching early-2000s TV on Netflix with her husband.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s plans to divorce took the world by surprise —if six kids, amazing careers, philanthropic work and international fame can’t make for a long-lasting couple or prevent “irreconcilable differences”, what can?
Of course, it is possible to get a fractured relationship back on track — that’s why it’s important to recognize the signs.
‘Love is dead’: Social media reacts to Brangelina breakup
Sept. 21, 201603:16
How can you know if you’re in a marriage that’s ‘going south’ towards divorce? Here are nine key signs that it may be time to get some relationship help:
1. You are not happy
When you’re in a good relationship, most of the time, you are happy. Every couple has disagreements and fights — but the majority of the time things are peaceful.
Is your partner unreliable, shut-down, critical or hostile most of the time? Or, do you feel like your partner is unresponsive, lazy, incompetent and you can’t see eye to eye? Being unhappy is a clear sign that this isn’t good anymore.
RELATED: 10 things I wish I’d known before getting divorced
2. Most of your interactions are not positive
Happy couples have an interaction ratio of 20:1 — that’s 20 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction, according to marriage researcher John Gottman. Conflicted couples have a ratio of 5:1, and couples nearing divorce are .8:1, or practically equal number of negative to positive interactions.
If you are more negative than positive over a long period of time with no improvement in sight, this is not a good sign.
3. You find reasons to avoid your partner
When you get home from work and see your partner’s car outside the house, do you sit in the car and avoid going inside? Do you find yourself wanting to hang out with your friends or family more? This can be a sign that things have changed on your end in an big way.
4. Your friends or family urge you to end the relationship
Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.
If many of your friends or family members don’t like your partner and tell you to break up (and that you’ll be better off) — pay attention! Those closest to you want the best for you, and may be able to see things clearly even when you can’t.
5. Your instincts are telling you to get out
If your stomach is always in a knot, it may be your gut instinct talking to you. If your gut says you should go, and you’re not sure, check in with your close friends or loved ones, or with an expert or therapist who can help you weigh the pros and cons.
6. You live like roommates
Maybe he sleeps in one room, you sleep in another room. You’re hardly bothered when he comes home from a long trip and barely acknowledge each other. You live separate lives, and you’re both more than OK with that kind of existence.
Sleep-Deprived Couples Rest Easy After ‘Sleep Divorce’
June 25, 201502:18
7. Everything is hard
Nearly every interaction feels like a chore or is painful. Whether it’s what to feed the kids for breakfast, or who needs to have another boys’ weekend — everything is difficult and dramatic. The conversations are provocative, painful, heated or even abusive.
8. One or both have changed values or priorities
In good relationships, couples value the same ‘big’ things. Over time, people can change, and what they once valued, they don’t anymore.
One partner may feverishly take up a new religion or lifestyle which forces a new way of life upon the partner. One partner wants to move across the country for a job opportunity, and the other wants to stay back for their own career.
Unless both people can adapt to significant changes like this, it can be a tough one to surmount.
When couples have different values and priorities, it can be a sign of trouble ahead. GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO / EPA
9. There is a sudden change in behavior
When one partner suddenly drops lots of weight and takes a renewed interest in their appearance, and maybe starts spending a lot of time away from home, there could be an ‘outside reason’ for this.
If they start ignoring you or even start wanting LOTS more sex, it could be a sign that something (or someone) else is in the picture. A new sexual partner can heighten sexual arousal — even back in their own beds.
RELATED: 32 emotional signs that he’s cheating
If you have more than 2-3 signs:
Can you imagine another 50 years with this person? What does that life look like?
Breaking up a marriage can be one of the hardest things to do — but think long term.
If you have a pit in your stomach after reading this, it may be time for some kind of action.
It could mean setting time aside to sit down and openly talk to your partner about your feelings, going to counseling or maybe even starting the separation process. Living unhappily is not necessary and there is usually a light at the end of every tunnel —if you look hard enough.
Dating coach Bela Gandhi is the founder and president of Smart Dating Academy (www.smartdatingacademy.com)
4 Warning Signs Marriage Therapists Use to Predict Divorce
Fix these things or get ready to say goodbye.
Well-trained marriage therapists have most likely studied the work of Drs. John and Julie Gottman. The Gottmans have done the most extensive research on marriage and what predicts divorce. He discovered four main predictors, which he terms the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and they are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.
All relationships have some of these, but if there are more than one present, a marriage therapist may have doubts about the longevity of the relationship.
The Top 10 Reasons People Get Divorced
The 4 Signs That Predict Divorce
1. Attacking the Person, Not the Behavior.
When criticizing, it is done in a way that implies something is wrong with you. It may include attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong. An example might be using generalizations. Saying, “you always…” “you never…” or “you’re the type of person who…” and “why are you so…”
This often makes the person feel under attack and in return, it provokes defensive reactions. This is a bad pattern as neither person feels heard and both may start to feel bad about themselves in the presence of the other.
It is important to make a specific complaint about a behavior, not attack your partner’s personality. For example, when X happened, I felt Y, and I need Z.
2. Feeling or Expressing Contempt Toward Your Spouse.
Contempt is any statement of nonverbal behavior that puts you on a higher ground than your partner. This could be mocking your partner, calling him/her names, eye rolling, hostile humor, hurtful sarcasm, sneering in disgust, etc.
It involves attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him/her. This is the most serious of the four.
Couples must work to eliminate such behaviors and build a culture of respect, appreciation, tolerance and kindness in the relationship.
3. Always Being On the Defensive (Even If You Don’t Realize It).
This is an attempt to defend yourself from a perceived attack with a counter complaint. Another way is to act like a victim or whine. This can look like making excuses (e.g., external circumstances beyond your control forced you to act in a certain way). Saying things like “It’s not my fault,” “I didn’t …” It can also be cross-complaining, such as meeting your partner’s complaint or criticism with a complaint of your own or ignoring what your partner said.
Other no-nos are yes-butting (start off agreeing but end up disagreeing) or simply repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying.
The best thing to do would be to try to listen from your partner’s perspective. Slow down and realize that you do not have to be perfect. Try your best to have conscious communication: speaking the unarguable truth and listening generously. Also, validate your partner — let your partner know what makes sense to you about what they are saying; let them know you understand what they are feeling and that you can see things through their eyes.
4. Stonewalling, Shutting Down or Walking Out.
This is withdrawing from the conversation and essentially the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. The stonewaller might actually physically leave or just completely shut down. Sometimes this is an attempt to calm oneself when overwhelmed, but it is most often unsuccessful.
People who do this may think they are trying to be “neutral,” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness. Stonewalling can look like: stony silence, monosyllabic mutterings, changing the subject, removing yourself physically or the “silent treatment.”
The antidote is to learn to identify the signs that you or your partner is starting to feel emotionally overwhelmed and to agree together to take a break and that the conversation will resume when you are both calmer.
4 BIG Mistakes I Made As A Wife (Psst! I’m The Ex-Wife Now)
Now that you know about the “Four Horsemen,” you can definitely do more to mitigate these factors in your relationship. Do you know that you need five times as much positive feeling and interaction as negative? This is the ratio at a minimum!
After an argument, claim responsibility for your part. Ask yourself, “what can I learn from this?” and “what can I do about it?”
Use what Gottman terms “repair attempts” during arguments that help to offset the tension. This may look like humor (used appropriately) or saying something like, “I’m sorry” or “I hear you saying…” or “I understand.”
Don’t push buttons and don’t escalate the argument. Start to recognize that all interactions are really a self-perpetuating cycle that you can exit from. Someone gets triggered, someone reacts, the partner reacts to this, and so on. Slow things down and ask what you are feeling under the surface (e.g., really hurt when you yelled in anger instead) and express that part of yourself.
We can all learn and benefit from the Gottmans’ research and if you still find the Four Horsemen are ruining your relationship, it’s time to seek out a skilled marriage therapist.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: 4 Tell-Tale Signs Marriage Therapists Use To Predict Divorce.
4 Warning Signs Marriage Therapists Use to Predict Divorce
What Are the Signs You Are Ready for Divorce?
Do you know the signs you ready for divorce? Want to know the top 3?
Everyone knows there are signs that a divorce may be ahead. What most people do not know are those divorce signs are not as common as they may think. There are two truths to keep in mind when you analyze divorce signs.
- Ending a marriage is serious.
- Nobody should take it lightly.
However, it is also foolish to ignore the signs that the marital relationship is in serious trouble. If you ignore it and fail to plan for a divorce, you may find yourself completely unprepared when it happens.
Here are the topics we will cover in this article.
- Loss of respect and why it may be the biggest sign of all.
- Losing the attraction to your spouse and intimacy with your spouse.
- Loss of empathy as the surprising sign many spouses miss.
- Other signs you are ready for divorce
Loss of respect is the biggest sign you may be ready for divorce
The complete loss of respect may be the biggest sign divorce is around the corner. A complete loss of respect means the following.
- You do not believe your spouse to be credible, reliable or truthful, and
- You do not believe your spouse’s perspective merits your attention or appreciation.
It is not common for spouses to lose some level of respect. Marriages have their difficulties and the challenges are not necessarily a sign it is time for divorce. What we refer to here is a prolonged and completely loss of respect.
The following are what we notice accompanies this loss of respect.
- Domestic violence, which is the ultimate display of a lack of respect.
- Dismissing the other spouse’s perspective as irrelevant or incorrect without any real dialogue or objective evaluation.
- Constant and unreasonable criticism by one spouse of the other.
- A frequent and ongoing disbelief of the other spouse’s statements or claimed perspectives.
- Regularly minimizing the other spouse’s contributions to the family.
You cannot have love without respect
You may have expected us to write about the loss of “love” instead of respect?
We do not believe you can have love without respect. The very nature of loving another person is a deep respect for the other person. When respect completely leaves the relationship, the love is gone. That is why the lack of respect is the first and biggest sign you are ready for a divorce.
Loss of attraction and intimacy is a common sign before divorce
Most marriages start with attraction that then leads to intimacy. A loss of attraction and therefore intimacy is the second sign you are ready for divorce.
Infidelity is a common result from a loss of attraction and intimacy
Most spouses who consult with us knew the road ahead would lead to divorce the moment they stepped outside of the marriage or they learned their spouse did so. While infidelity may be situational and not necessarily a sign you or your spouse are ready for divorce, that is in our experience the exception.
Read our guide on how adultery affects divorce
Is attraction and intimacy still a sign in an “open” marriage?
Yes, because even in an open marriage, the spouses are still attracted and intimate. An open marriage is not a lack of either. It simply means the spouses agree there will be sexual intimacy with others, in addition to each other.
Lack of empathy is the surprising sign you are ready for divorce
Empathy refers to the ability to understand each other’s feelings, emotions and perspectives. It is an honest collaboration regarding each one and the ability to communicate openly and honestly about it.
“I don’t care anymore”, if those words are sincere, are words spouses on the brink of divorce often think or speak. A persistent and genuine lack of caring is a lack of empathy. That is why we believe it is one of the key signs you are ready for a divorce.
Lack of empathy takes many forms. We see it in broken marriages in the following circumstances.
- Dismissing or not caring about a spouse’s physical or mental health challenges.
- Unwillingness to help a spouse when he or she is under significant external stress.
- Selfishly placing personal interests over that of the family, especially in times when the family’s focus and unity must be strong.
- Denying a spouse’s request to speak about the marital problems, including a refusal to participate in therapy.
- Deliberately taking action or making statements that a spouse knows is hurtful to the other spouse.
- Placing blame on marital problems entirely on one spouse despite the objective evidence to the contrary.
Are there other signs you are ready for divorce?
These signs are not in the top three but that does not mean they are not important. Many of the following signs are the “effect” from the “cause” of lack of respect, loss of intimacy and loss of empathy. You should carefully watch for these actions as they may mean your spouse is ready for a divorce.
- Deception about money.
- Detachment from family responsibilities.
- Heightened sensitivity to personal privacy.
- Defensiveness about whereabouts and actions.
- Significant and sudden change in habits.
Are there signs that you or your spouse are ready for divorce?
Marital problems only get worse if you ignore them. There comes a time when you and your spouse should seek counseling. If your spouse refuses, you should still speak with a mental health professional. You will need the tools to recognize the signs you or your spouse are ready for divorce.
If that day comes and you know divorce is inevitable, the next, most important step is to consult with an experienced divorce attorney.
The difference between how divorce affects men and women might be negligible. Although females tend to display emotions more than males, distress due to a marital breakup knows no gender. Responses in both sexes can run the gamut from angry outbursts, rage, and resentment to uncontrollable crying, depression and suicidal thoughts. But how divorce affects men is not always apparent. Sometimes, even if an ex-spouse is guilty of adultery and appears to celebrate a new found freedom by partying and carousing, they may secretly experience remorse, regret and depression. The reason for these dark emotions is because divorce is much like death. Whether couples spend two or twenty-two years together prior to a breakup, a physical and emotional bond is formed that is difficult to dissolve.
Through marriage two individuals become one flesh. To these one-flesh union children are born, and a lifetime of trials and triumphs are experienced in an intimate relationship that cannot be rivaled. The dissolution of the marital bond tears asunder one of the most sacred unions ordained by God; and that tearing is not easily overcome by either gender. “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:3-6).
While males are less likely to openly share personal feelings, how divorce affects men may be evident by a variety of more subtle responses. Ex-husbands may experience emotional highs and lows, becoming sullen and withdrawn one moment or exuberant and enthusiastic the next. Signs of depression due to divorce include failure to keep up personal hygiene and attention to dressing, weight gain or loss due to overeating or fasting, and insomnia. How divorce affects men is largely dependent on the lifestyle led prior to the breakup. Husbands accustomed to having a wife to cook, clean, and provide care twenty-four hours a day may struggle with everyday chores. Replacing nutritious home cooked meals replaced with high-calorie, high-fat fast foods often leads to obesity and accompanying health issues, including heart attack and stroke. Ex-husbands may also indulge in increased alcohol consumption or substance abuse in an effort to deal with emotional highs and lows. Feelings of rejection, abandonment, and low self-esteem may plague men who are victims of adultery. Former spouses may feel as if life has taken a downward spiral with little chance of recovery.
At the pinnacle of an emotional roller coaster, ex-husbands may demonstrate how divorce affects men with overwhelming exuberance and boundless energy. After an initial depression, some males may seize the opportunity to re-tool themselves, focusing on body-building, fastidious grooming, and getting back on the dating scene. Days are spent at the gym trying to get rid of the pounds packed on during decades of married life; and nights are spent at the clubs trying to pick up women who may have not given them a second look while married. Statistics indicate men outnumber women by four to one. On the dating scene, newly divorced females will have fewer eligible males to choose from. But for males, a plethora of women are available. Many former husbands, having been burned by a bad marriage, prefer to play the field and may spend several years or the rest of their lifetime jumping in and out of relationships.
Casual observers of how divorce affects men may also see a greater alienation from family and friends, especially children. If the man was responsible for the breakup because of infidelity, alienation from loved ones is highly likely. In such cases, minor and adult children may feel compelled to come to their mother’s rescue, alienating themselves from a cheating dad. Isolation, depression or feelings of abandonment and low self-esteem may result, as former mates suffer the loss of relationships once highly valued. Even if an adulterous male should marry his mistress, the loss of friends, family and children from a previous marriage can be painful. Feelings of rejection, remorse, or self-hatred may all be signs of how divorce affects men. Alcoholism and substance abuse may result from the guilt, shame and stigma of an adulterous affair ending in divorce.
Regardless of how divorce affects men, ex-spouses must strive to achieve a degree of emotional stability. Spiritual, psychological and relationship counseling may be necessary to gain a proper perspective. But for most males seeking help from professional therapists or ministers is not an easy decision. To admit the necessity for help resolving the emotional trauma of divorce is the first step toward restoring balance to an unbalanced life. Undergoing a devastating experience like the dissolution of marriage can force men and women to take a closer look at their spiritual walk with God. Growing closer to God by regular Bible study and church attendance and making a personal decision to become born again by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord will help ex-spouses overcome adversity and find peace. Ex-husbands should consider joining a church-sponsored divorce recovery group or making an appointment to talk to a pastor. Church attendance will help strengthen a spirit broken by divorce. Ex-spouses should seek a clergyman or close personal friend with whom confidences can be shared. Finally, men need to realize that displaying emotion is not solely reserved for women, nor is the salvation and peace of mind that can only be found in Christ Jesus.
How Divorce Affects Women
How divorce affects women is, in many ways, different than men. Because females can be vulnerable or emotional, the end of matrimony can be devastating. The hurt and feelings of rejection can overwhelm a sensitive woman who was or is still in love. Females tend to pour their whole beings into a relationship; and when it ends that part of the woman’s psyche or self-worth must somehow be retrieved. An estranged wife must deal not only with feelings of rejection, but also abandonment, self-deprecation, or depression. A love lost can leave a former spouse wounded, empty, feeling forlorn and fragmented without a sense of direction or will to survive. It is the depth of emotion that makes how divorce affects women different from men. A man undergoing a marital breakup may be hurt or feel rejected, but men are less inclined to allow emotions to penetrate. Ex-husbands may be momentarily wounded, some may even go through depression; but the knowledge that males are innate “hunters” convinces former husbands that there are new territories to be conquered. That hunter instinct and male resiliency enables men, though wounded and rejected, to resist feelings that might overwhelm or immobilize. And the libido drives an estranged husband to seek another mate and the possibility of future fulfillment.
Unlike men, how divorce affects women is manifested in the female’s innate dependency on the opposite sex. Not only does society teach little girls that it is okay to be fragile, but God created women to be the weaker vessel. But when a marriage fails, especially if the woman was the victim of infidelity, her whole world can fall apart. The agony of marital breakup for a woman is that as the world is crumbling, the one “anchor” she would have held onto is no longer there. Some ex-wives are so dependent on former husbands that they cannot function, even on a day-to-day basis. After decades of marriage, the wife’s personality can become absorbed by the husband’s; and her self-worth a mere reflection of the husband’s opinion. With the absence of the male, the woman is left to fend for herself; but ill-equipped to survive in the real world of decision-making and self-actualization.
Wives undergoing the trauma of divorce need a support system to help make the transition from a dependent female to independence. Support may come from first from those who understand how divorce affects women: professional or spiritual counselors; then friends, family, or church members. Faith-based organizations or self-help groups, secular therapists, or divorce recovery classes can help women rediscover who they are and find meaning and purpose in life. Skilled therapists or Christian counselors are aware of how divorce affects women and can offer several methodologies for recovery. The goal of secular therapists will be to get former wives to realize self-worth and regain independence. The goal of spiritual counselors will be to get hurting women to seek God for strength, the ability to forgive, and the willingness to become viable.
Joining a church-sponsored divorce recovery class can help estranged wives regain the self-confidence and faith in God to restore, renew and regenerate a wounded spirit or a broken heart. “Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:4-8).
Spiritual advisers that are well versed in how divorce affects women may pair a new enrollee in a recovery program with a female who has successfully completed the program. The testimony of a recovering former wife can go a long way in helping to convert a new enrollee from dependence, depression, and self-deprecation to spiritual wholeness and mental well being. As part of an ex-wife’s support system, in addition to being a prayer partner, a successful program participant can offer a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, or an encouraging scripture. A church leader, pastor or elder should be able to deftly lead a hurting soul to seek a personal relationship with Jesus Christ so that the wounded female can one day stand on her own.
Spiritual leaders or pastors who are well aware of how divorce affects women should also exercise caution when dealing with wounded hearts. A former wife who finds herself suddenly single can be extremely vulnerable to other men. Married women who have grown accustomed to male companionship can easily fall prey to an emotional attachment to strong male figures. Responsible male leaders should be mindful of wounded ex-wives who may view a pastor or church elder as a “knight in shining armor.” Many well meaning clergymen and women find themselves in compromising positions when trying to minister to hurting souls. Christian divorce recovery programs and counseling are best conducted in small group settings or in the presence of another individual. To avoid the appearance of evil, pastors or church leaders should only counsel females in the company of a wife or church mother.
An understanding of how divorce affects women can aid secular or spiritual counselors in helping ex-wives find the road to recovery. A strong support system, involvement in a local church, prayer and rebuilding a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, are the building blocks any estranged female can use to reconstruct a life torn by a failed marriage.
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