Four Predictors of Divorce

Sharni Zaknic, Clinical Psychologist, Cumberland Park SA

9th March 2018

How to understand if you are at risk of a divorce

The Gottman Method is an evidence-based couples counselling intervention, developed by John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman, that draws on decades of relationship research. John and Julie Gottman are able to predict divorce with 91% accuracy after listening to a couple discuss a conflict issue for 15 minutes. They are on the lookout for a number of traits, most notably, the four horsemen!

The four horsemen include, criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

1. Criticism. The first horseman, criticism, is present in relationships when either partner is making critical remarks based in their partner’s personality or internal traits, rather than describing their partner’s behaviour as separate from their personality.

2. Contempt. The second horseman, contempt, occurs when one partner acts in a superior manner to their partner and belittles or insults them. This horseman reduces the listener’s immune system and predicts how many infectious illnesses they will experience over the year, it also sends couples galloping over the cliff straight to a divorce lawyer!

3. Defensiveness. The third horseman, as defined by Gottman, defensiveness,  is a natural reaction to being criticised or demeaned, however this is unhealthy in relationships because when one partner is being defensive, they are unable to take any responsibility for their actions, even if there is some responsibility to take.

4. Stonewalling. The final horseman is stonewalling. Stonewalling occurs when one partner disengages from the conversation, either mentally or physically. For example, you  may be in the midst of a discussion when your partner stares off into the distance and refuses to talk or leaves your vicinity with no explanation.


Is your relationship harbouring one or more of the four horsemen?

If you feel that your relationship has one or more of the four horsemen occupying a spare room in your home, the good news is that there are evidence-based interventions that can make significant improvements on your relationship and the way you discuss conflict issues, which in turn, reduces your risk of divorce.

Please contact ThinkWise for further details of accessing specialised Gottman couples therapy.

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