With three days remaining in my series, my wife and I needed to connect. She’s in the midst of her own 31-day series on “Resurrected Dreams”
, as well as launching a new stationery line and children’s clothing line. She’s designing and sewing the line herself. Needless to say, she’s more creative than me and probably busier. We’ve had little connect time in the evenings, and it was starting to show.
[Incidentally, this topic is not normally part of my PRIMEpathway health coaching model. I needed a bit more time to prepare for my next post, so you get to hear from my heart today.]
So we sat down for a few hours this evening. We’ve been married for nearly four years. That’s not a long time but long enough to have worked through some major battles. We work hard on our marriage. It takes real intentionality to grow deeper, both in our love for one another and our character.
We often refer to a principal from Dr. Gottman
, a relationship expert with over 35 years of research under his belt. He’s often touted in the media for his remarkable ability to predict divorce. His highest percentage in one study shows 94% accuracy. He’s become famous for his positive-to-negative ratio. Dr. Gottman says the ratio of positive interactions to negative in happy couples is 20 to 1, in conflicted couples is 5 to 1, and in soon-to-divorce couples is .8 to 1. So if the balance falls to more negative interactions than positive ones, you’ll end up with a broken marriage.
He describes some of the most negative behaviors as “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. They are:
- Criticism: stating one’s complaints as a defect in one’s partner’s personality, i.e., giving the partner negative trait attributions. Example: “You always talk about yourself. You are so selfish.”
- Contempt: statements that come from a relative position of superiority. Contempt is the greatest predictor of divorce and must be eliminated. Example: “You’re an idiot.”
- Defensiveness: self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victim-hood. Defensiveness wards off a perceived attack. Example: “It’s not my fault that we’re always late; it’s your fault.”
- Stonewalling: emotional withdrawal from interaction. Example: The listener does not give the speaker the usual nonverbal signals that the listener is “tracking” the speaker.
These predict an early divorce, around 5 to 6 years after the wedding. Emotional withdrawal and anger point to later divorce, around 16 years of marriage.
When we’re in the throes of life with two small children and busy schedules, we can end up in a negative cycle. Someone usually has to call a timeout before we can stop the downward spiral. It sometimes takes real courage and humility to stop, admit wrong, and seek a deeper connection. Our pride often prolongs the pain, but we cherish those rich moments when we refocus our attention on God’s greater design for us as individuals and a couple. And if my marriage isn’t good, my health will never be great. The strength of my muscles will never carry me further than the strength of my heart.