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You'd Be Amazed How Much This One Thing Can Keep You Out Of Divorce Court
Marriage

You'd Be Amazed How Much This One Thing Can Keep You Out Of Divorce Court

I truly can’t believe that it was almost five freakin’ years ago that I penned “Why I'll Never Call Someone A 'Boyfriend' Again” for this platform. Now that I’m in the thick of writing my third book (due out later this year) and I’m revisiting this declaration, I am standing firm on it more than ever. There are no boyfriends in the Bible. Your taxes couldn’t care less if you have a boyfriend (some of y’all will catch that later). And acting like you’re married while having a boyfriend when you’re actually not? That is so hella counterproductive — on a myriad of different levels.


Yeah, the longer I live, the more folks I counsel, and the more that I observe humanity; in general, I honestly believe that this culture and how it dates, it teaches people how to divorce, not marry. “Fall in love,” place marriage rules in the dynamic, break up…rinse, and repeat. Then, by the time you actually do say marital vows to someone (which are serious, y’all), you don’t even really mean them or get the weight of them because you’re processing them as barely a step up from whatever you and your last three boyfriends promised to each other.

It's so countercultural to talk about relationships from this angle — and that is why I am hypervigilant about doing all that I can to keep married folks from calling it quits. Because what the Bible does say is covenant-keeping is very serious (Malachi 2:16, Matthew 19:1-12, I Corinthians 7:10-11, Ephesians 5:22-33), the reality is that divorces can be costly on every level, and, reportedly, about half of people who do divorce, on some level, end up regretting it (check out “What Some People Regret About Their Divorce”). So, if we can keep the ending of marriages to a minimum (or at least try), shouldn’t we?

With all of this said, in walks something that I personally found to be pretty interesting. Apparently, after a whopping 40,000 couples were researched, with 94 percent accuracy, there is one thing that could predict if they would divorce. Or not. Are you ready to read what it is?

Did You Know There Is Such a Thing As “The Four Horsemen” in a Marriage?

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It never fails. Whenever I’m having a conversation with a couple who is seriously contemplating marriage, one thing that they will ask me is if there’s a way to ensure that they won’t get a divorce. I mean, if two people decide to not divorce, they won’t. That’s another message for another time, though. For now, what I will say is when I read about what The Gottman Institute considers to be “The Four Horsemen” of poor communication styles in a marriage, I totally got where they were coming from.

And what are they? According to the institute, it’s criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Although the reality is that pretty much all humans struggle with these on some level, let me briefly explain what it means to be excessive with them.

  • An overly critical person gives unsolicited advice that the person on the receiving end either doesn’t want or doesn’t find to be helpful at all. Still, the critical person gives it because they always seem to think that they know best — including when it comes to timing.
  • A person who speaks with some level of contempt usually hits below the belt or is super disrespectful in their delivery. They don’t mind being very sarcastic, dismissive, mocking others, or calling them names (bookmark this one).
  • A person who is hella defensive usually struggles with not taking what they dish out, they can’t receive advice unless it’s connected to praise, and they absolutely suck at personal accountability, which is why they deflect, make excuses, and justify their actions a lot.
  • Stonewallers are individuals who hold grudges, are passive-aggressive, and refuse to communicate. Of the four, this one is typically seen as the most immature course of action.

And when you take all of these in and then factor in that poor communication (because if you argue a lot, your communication skills need work) continues to be one of the leading causes of divorce (although I do find it interesting that, as far as sources of conflict go, career choices then parenting styles and then the divvying up of household chores lead the pack), whether you want to get married, are newly married or have been married for a while now, keeping those four horsemen in mind, along with being real with yourself about where you succumb to communicating that way, all of this is definitely worth taking special note of.

Okay, but those are four things and the title of this article says that ONE thing, in particular, can help you to avoid divorce most of all. What is it? Well, as far as which one of the four is the most damning, many experts say that it’s contempt. I get why. I mean, who wants to be intimate with someone, on any level, if they are mean as hell? After all, no one signs up to be another person’s emotional punching bag. Marriage is supposed to be an emotional safe space; not a battlefield.

However, according to the married couple John Gottman, Ph.D. and Julie Gottman, Ph.D., the greatest predictor of divorce is something else (although the four horsemen are definitely a huge part of what can prevent what I’m about to say next from transpiring).

The One Thing That Just Might “Divorce-Proof” Your Marriage

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So what could actually keep you out of divorce court if you take and then apply it seriously? The Gottmans call it “turning towards” your partner. And just what does that mean? In a nutshell, it’s being intentional about making sure that your partner feels both seen and heard.

Honestly, one of the best ways that you can do that is through your body language (check out “15 Relational Body Language Cues You Definitely Shouldn't Ignore”) because it’s already pretty rude for your partner to try and express how they feel and you turn your back towards them or even switch your energy away from them. No one wants to be dismissed like that. However, turning towards your partner means more than just that.

Turning towards your partner is all about fully engaging them. I’ll give you some examples:

When you’re turning towards your partner, you are applying compassion. For instance, if they had a hard day at work and they express to you what’s going on, you’re not so quick to give advice or criticize; instead, you acknowledge what they said and respond with things like, “I can see how that would make you feel. Anything I can do?”

When you’re turning towards your partner, you are open to what they are saying, even about you, that you might not like. For example, if they bring something up that you do that bothers them or hurts their feelings, you don’t get defensive or pull that “You do it too” mess; instead, you take the approach of, “Will you explain to me how that affects you to the point where you are upset by it?” and then you LISTEN FULLY (meaning without interruption) to their response.

When you’re turning towards your partner, you take the stance that Dr. Phil has become well-known for saying: “Do I want to be happy or do I want to be right?” You get that because your marriage isn’t just about you, you are willing to compromise, be flexible, and do what’s ultimately best for the relationship instead of only focusing on things going your way.

These are merely three examples of what it means to “turn towards” your partner, and according to the Gottmans, whenever you do that, you have an 86 percent chance of staying together instead of a 33 percent chance if you don’t.

And just how can you become a master at turning towards your partner if this is a concept that is completely new to you? Good question. When two people make the decision to share their lives, this means that they are choosing to meet each other’s needs. The only way that you can know what those are is by asking — not assuming, not presuming…asking. And then, once you know, discuss with your partner if you are meeting their needs in a way where they feel like their needs are actually being met.

And what does that mean? Listen, I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a session with a spouse who has told me that they are a good husband or wife, and then, when I ask their partner if they agree, all hell breaks loose. Yeah, you can’t be in a relationship with someone and have the only vote on whether you are good for them or not; they definitely get a say. And if you’re serious about “turning towards” your spouse, you’ll want to hear what they have to say about if you are both good to and for them — in both the big and smaller things.

____

At the end of the day, if you want to avoid divorcing at all costs (and here’s hoping that you do), turning towards your partner is about expressing empathy. It’s about facing them, figuratively and literally, so that you can better understand them, support them, and share in their needs with them. Because when you sign up for marriage, that’s a huge part of what it means to be a married person.

Marriage: Riding through life together. Avoiding the four horsemen at all costs. Turning towards each other. Daily.

Amen.

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Featured image by Goodboy Picture Company/Getty Images

 

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