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Gottman (2003) has identified four negative factors as particularly destructive that are predictors of divorce.  These are known as the four horseman of the apocalypse:

Criticism –  Using words like “you always” or “you never”, which leads the partner to feel under attack and respond defensively. The antidote is to make a direct complaint that is not a global attack on your partner’s personality.

Defensiveness – Attempting to defend yourself from a perceived attack with a counter complaint, which escalates negative communication. The antidote is to try to hear your partner’s complaint and to take some responsibility for the problem.

Contempt – A statement or nonverbal behavior that puts you on a level of superiority (e.g., name calling, rolling eyes, sneering, mocking), which destroys the fondness and admiration. The antidote is to work on building a culture of appreciation and use less contemptuous statements and behaviors.

Stonewalling – Withdrawing from the conversation, due to being overwhelmed and trying to calm down. The antidote is to learn to identify signs that one or both partners is overwhelmed and agree to take a break.

Here is a short video describing these factors and anedotes:

These are some factors that can predict the demise of a relationship. Are there other factors you have come across in your readings that predict why marriages stay together?

Answering “counts” as a discussion response.


Gottman, John (2003). The Mathematics of Marriage. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-07226-7.

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