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Gottman’s 4 Predictors of Divorce

Gottman Method 4 Predictors of Divorce and 4 Horsemen

John Gottman, a leading psychologist and researcher on relationships, found that he could predict with 94% accuracy whether couples will divorce in the next few years after studying them for only a few minutes. In his studies, he found four main predictors of divorce – defensiveness, criticism, contempt, and stonewalling. Couples who show signs of these behaviors are less likely to overcome the rough patches in their relationship and are more likely to end up splitting up. Learn more about the 4 predictors of divorce and how you can avoid them by reading on below!



Defensiveness is a common response when one partner feels attacked by their spouse, but it’s important to understand that defensiveness can have a negative impact on your relationship. Oftentimes, couples tend to respond negatively and become defensive during arguments because they feel their identities are being threatened or under attack by their partner. This may be especially true if both partners come from different backgrounds or if each brings different beliefs and values into their marriage.


Defensive people use explanations, justifications, and personalizations to protect themselves. They deflect their partner’s concerns by turning them back on their partner. Examples: I didn’t mean to yell at you; you just don’t understand how stressed I am at work. It wasn’t my fault that we were late for dinner; your sister shouldn’t have gotten lost and held us up. You know she can be so scatterbrained sometimes! While it can feel good to get your point across or explain yourself, there are more productive ways to go about it.



John Gottman discovered that what makes or breaks a marriage is how couples deal with conflict. Specifically, he found that criticism was one of four key predictors—and perhaps even more important than contempt—of divorce. Gottman explains that criticism is different from contempt in that it doesn’t sound vicious… but it’s just as deadly to a relationship. Basically, any attack on your partner’s character may be viewed as personal and could likel lead to a downward spiral in your relationship. For example, saying “You’re so careless,” comes across as an insult; instead try something like “Can you double-check that bill before I send it out?” You can still express concern but without putting your partner on the defensive!



Feelings of disgust, disrespect and irritation with your partner are a sure sign that you’re on your way to divorce. People who feel contempt towards their partners show less desire for intimacy, and are more likely to seek out alternatives such as flirting, pornography or affairs.


Contempt is considered one of the most harmful emotions in relationships because it not only communicates how little you care about your partner but also makes him or her feel worthless and unloved. When communicating with each other, don’t hold back; get everything off your chest—this will allow you to feel better about yourself and your relationship without hurting anyone else.



This one is a fairly common behavior that partners use to manage conflict. Stonewalling (or detachment) is when one partner disengages from an argument and gives up or retreats in an attempt to stop an argument. The partner who is stonewalling may look distracted, upset, or uninterested by what his or her partner is saying. On an emotional level, it can make sense—it’s not fun to fight with your spouse! But in reality, stonewalling only makes things worse for your relationship. If you find yourself stonewalling during arguments with your partner, ask for space, organize your thoughts and ALWAYS return to your partner to seek resolution.


The Gottman Method, also known as Gottman Couples Therapy, is a highly successful approach to couples counseling based on scientific research. Based on this research, a skilled marriage therapist helps couples change their destructive patterns. In Gottman Couples Therapy, partners learn to increase their positive interactions, communicate more directly, and develop their love for each other by getting to know each other again.

Knot Counseling’s marriage therapists are Gottman trained. Call for consultation and we can help you get your relationship back on track.



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