Written by: Robert R. Cassman, LPCC
When a relationship “fails” many people look for explanations. John Gottman has researched this and has found many predictors of divorce. Below are five predictors of a poor relationship.
- Relationships that split or “fail” tend to have more negativity than positivity. This shouldn’t be a shock. But in stable relationships, couples have a 5:1 ratio of positive affect DURING conflict discussion. For the unstable relationships, the ratio is 0.8:1. In other words, unstable relationships have more negative affect during conflict while stable ones have more positivity in those same conflicts.
- The worsening of negative affect also leads to relationship deterioration. It is not the fact that there is a reciprocity of negativity that leads to a splitting but the escalation or worsening of negativity that does. If your partner comes at you in a negative way, being negative back is NOT a predictor of relationship failure. However, if you come back at your partner with even MORE negativity, then that can lead to problems.
- The lack of emotional connectedness is a strong predictor of splitting of relationships. Those couples with little shared humor, affection, support and empathy are those who are most likely to split. This poor pattern is usually displayed on a regular basis when the couple has everyday interactions with each other.
- Multiple failed “repair attempts” are more common in dysfunctional relationships. “Repair attempts” are those ways in which one partner attempts to lessen the negativity and help a conflict move to a more positive direction. When these “repair attempts” are not well-received by the other partner on a regular basis, it may contribute to the end of the relationship.
- Negative sentiment override can cause destruction in a relationship. When one or both partners in a relationship attribute their partner’s behaviors to bad or mean motives, it can worsen the conflict. This “negative sentiment override” is the general way in which a fighting couple may think of each other: “overall my partner is a negative person.” When one begins to think of a partner like this, it will cloud any attempt the other partner attempts to make.
Next week I will discuss three ways functional relationships go right.