The one negative behaviour that predicts the end of your happy marriage

Marriage takes work

There’s an art to creating and maintaining a happy marriage. Did you know that there’s been research conducted about the four behaviours which will determine the success or failure of a marriage (or, I’d hazard to guess, any relationship).

Just four behaviours! Any idea what they might be? What behaviour does your partner exhibit that triggers you? Or, perhaps look back at a past relationship; what behaviours brought down that relationship – not necessarily from your partner (they aren’t always the bad guys); what about your own behaviours?


Be aware of words and behaviours
Do you or your partner display any of these negative behaviours?

Dr John Gottman who researches marital stability and divorce prediction, claims he can pick those relationships which will end up in divorce with a 90% accuracy!

Wow! Why don’t we know about this?

As a marriage celebrant of 15 years, I’ve met literally thousands of couples, most of whom I’ve had good feelings about, but some of whom have triggered a gut-wrenching uneasiness. Funnily though, whether I knock the booking back or accept it, I can look back and find I was intuitively picking up the signs of marriage failure or success even before I learned about these four behaviours.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the suspense!

Has contempt crept into your relationship?
There are four negative behaviours which can impact the success or failure of our relationships

Four negative behaviours we need to watch out for

After watching hundreds of couples argue, Gottman found that the four predictors of failure in a marriage are contempt, criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling.

The nastiest of these negative communication patterns in a marriage? Contempt.

So, what does contempt look like? It’s mocking and treating your partner with disrespect. Eyerolling, hostile humour, name-calling, sneering … I’m sure you get the picture. These not so nice behaviours leave us feeling unloved and pained.

Don’t despair!

If you recognise your relationship here, don’t despair! There’s still hope. Dr Gottman’s ability to predict divorce is contingent upon these negative behaviours not ever changing, so there’s time to change this around by working together on your “we-ness” – your connectedness.

Remember back to when you first met! You adored each other, right?  Work on getting that back.

Look at each other with rose-coloured glasses – be each other’s biggest fan and in doing so you’ll be creating a culture of appreciation and respect. If contempt has crept into your relationship, it’s a tell-tale sign that the culture of your relationship is no longer positive and nurturing.  In fact, your relationship might be on pretty unstable grounds.

If there's contempt in your relationship, you need to work fast!
Work on creating a more positive marriage culture

So, rather than looking for things to pick on, look for the positives: Catch your partner doing something good. Tell them you appreciate them. Thank them. Hug more. Touch more. Laugh more. Approach your relationship as bipartisan rather than oppositional.

In making a concerted effort to create a more positive marriage culture, you’ll both be happier and your relationship will blossom again.

Find out more

I’ll post about the other three behaviours soon.  Follow me to find out more!

Wedding Celebrant Sunshine Coast
Sunshine Coast Marriage Celebrant,  Dr Lynette Maguire

About Dr Lynette Maguire:
Dr Lynette Maguire is a popular Marriage Celebrant on the Sunshine Coast, who is fascinated with people and behaviours prompting her to attain her first University degree majoring in Psychology (2010). Lynette has been a marriage celebrant for 15 years and is known for her genuine, high energy and fun, modern ceremonies.