How to predict if your happy marriage will succeed

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?

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 18 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! This blog will cover the first of four negative behaviours to watch out for.

Man and woman arguing in a park
There are four negative behaviours which can impact the success or failure of our relationships

The one negative behaviour 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, pained and judged.

Man and woman on a park bench not talking and facing away from each other
Work on creating a more positive marriage culture

Don’t despair!

If you recognise this behaviour in yourself or your partner, 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.

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. Go on date nights. Work on having fun sex. Be truly intimate with your whole being. Approach your relationship as bipartisan rather than oppositional.

Bride and groom in bridal attire kissing in the water
Have fun together and always look for each others positives

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!

Portrait of marriage celebrant Lynette Maguire
Wedding Celebrant Sunshine Coast

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) and her PhD (2015). Lynette has been a marriage celebrant for 18 years and is known for her genuine, high energy and fun, modern ceremonies.