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Nature of arguments can predict divorce

Psychologists in the United States have claimed that the way spouses argue can predict if they will end up getting a divorce.

John Gottman from the University of Washington and Robert Levenson from the University of California were able to predict divorce with 93 per cent accuracy.

A total of 79 couples took part in a 14-year study. Those who exhibited signs of contempt, criticism, defensiveness, and stonewalling during arguments were most likely to see their marriages come to an end.

Talking to Business Insider, Gottman said contempt was the most dangerous attitude to take in a relationship, branding it the “kiss of death”.

Contempt indicates a superiority complex, Gottman suggested. If someone feels smarter, or generally better, than their spouse, they are less likely to value their opinions. This will make arguments worse and reconciliation more difficult.

But even if a spouse displays such behaviour, it is not too late to salvage the marriage, Gottman claimed. He added that “all really good marriages and love relationships” have something in common: that when one partner is upset, the other listens.

The key is to be “very gentle” when conflict arises, the psychologist said. People in successful relationships “don’t bare their fangs and leap in there; they’re very considered”. They develop “repairing skills” so they can deal with issues as they come before moving on.

Gottman has studied relationships for over 40 years. He and his wife founded the relationship therapist training centre the Gottman Institute and head a non-profit research organisation called the Relationship Research Institute.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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