Divorce Proofing Your Marriage: Love Maps

We’ve talked a lot the last few weeks about what not to do in your marriage, now let’s turn the tables and look at what strengthens marriage. builds healthy relationships.  Over the next ten weeks we’ll look at the research Drs. John and Julie Gottman have found that build healthy marriages. This week let’s focus on Love Maps.

Enhancing your Love Map – Do you know what makes your partner tick? Do you know your partner’s history?  Have you shared yours?  This requires some emotional availability on your part.  This week, share your love map – your worries, dreams, hopes, joys – and ask him to share his.

Non-Verbal Communication as a Predictor of Divorce

The last few weeks we’ve focused on some predictors of divorce that Drs. John and Julie Gottman have diligently researched over the last 20 years. Whether separate, or together, the presence of The Four Horsemen, Harsh Startups, and Failed Repair Attempts can predict divorce 82 – 90+% of the time.  I have a theory about why these are such predominant factors in predicting divorce.

70 % of what we communicate is Non-Verbal Communication. Seventy Percent. 70!  Seventy percent of the time HOW we say something is more important that WHAT we say.  The tone and volume of our voices, our facial expressions, rolling of the eyes, smirking of the lips, body postures, hand gestures… These all communicate way more than our words.  In fact, we can remain silent and our body language can speak volumes alone.

I like to use babies as an example.  Before they are even able to speak words they communicate to us all day long.  They cry, they whine, they laugh, they grunt, they look away, they look in our eyes, they wiggle, they grab, they smile… and we understand (or learn to) what they are “saying.”

Oftentimes in our marriage, and other close relationships, we use non-verbal communication subconsciously to communicate things that might be too vulnerable to say out loud. An eye roll and arms crossed in front of our chest might communicate that we are hurt by something the other did or said and we are trying to protect ourselves from not getting hurt again.

So what if instead we maintain gentle eye contact, put our arms to our side and softly say, “I love you and I don’t like the way I talk to you.  I feel hurt. I don’t know what to do with this hurt that I feel and it has been coming out in my eye rolling and arms folded across my body.”  Whoa!  That might get someone’s attention!  Keep in mind that starting something new – a new behavior, a new way of communicating, etc. – can be difficult at first and takes some getting used to (for the sender and the receiver) but if you are consistent for at least a month, it will start to get easier.

So the next time you are in a conversation with your loved one, notice your non-verbal communication. Ask yourself, “What am I really trying to communicate? Is it working?  How might I communicate it differently?”​

Predictors of Divorce – Harsh Startups and Failed Repair Attempts

While there are several predictors of divorce that Drs. John and Julie Gottman have researched, there are a few that are more significant than others in their high predictability of divorce.  In a previous post we covered The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. Now let’s talk about two more elements of relationships that raise divorce predictions from 82% with just The Four Horsemen present to 90% plus.

These elements are: Harsh Startups and Failed Repair Attempts.

Harsh Startups happen when there is criticism and or sarcasm (a form of contempt) present at the beginning of a conversation.  Research shows that 96% of the time the outcome of a conversation can be predicted within the first 3 minutes of a 15 minute conversation. If Harsh Startups are present during those first 3 minutes it is difficult for the conversation to go well.

Failed Repair Attempts happen when one or both people are trying to repair a previous conversation and they can’t prevent negativity from escalating out of control.  Failed Repair Attempts is a primary factor for unhappy relationships.  Every relationship has had some criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling at times but if you can’t repair the times that they happen not only does your unhappiness with the relationship increase but the likelihood of divorce increases as well.

Enough about Predictors of Divorce! Stay tuned for upcoming posts about Divorce-Proofing Your Marriage. Hooray!