Today on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we would like to give a warm shout out to all the readers who sent us positive feedback on Facebook about The Research series, and also recognize those who have shared our blog with others! Thank you! We are delighted to hear that you’re finding the postings both insightful and understandable – we will continue to share about the science behind the headlines for the next several weeks.
We’ve received a number of requests to go into more depth on the study we shared on Monday. See more of Dr. Gottman’s findings below, and look forward to Friday’s blog posting, in which we will share the practical implications of this groundbreaking study on divorce prediction.
In Predicting Divorce from the Oral History Interview (1992), Dr. Gottman and his colleagues found that the Marital Disappointment/Disillusionment dimension was the most powerful single predictor of divorce. This dimension attempts to capture how depressed, hopeless, or defeated a spouse may sound when talking about his or her marriage (or about marriage in general). In the interview, people who scored high in Disappointment/Disillusionment sometimes said that they didn’t know what makes a marriage work because all they’d seen or experienced were bad ones!
While other couples were less blunt about their disappointment with marriage, they instead sounded disappointed or sad about specific aspects of their relationship. Some couples mentioned that they had unrealistic expectations about what marriage would be like. A number of participants in the study actually attempted to advise the interviewer about marriage, revealing their regret and displeasure with their own union.
Both husbands’ and wives’ presence or lack of “we-ness” during an oral history interview is a strong indicator of whether a couple will divorce or not. The husbands and wives who are low on this dimension may not feel connected or intimate with their spouses. These couples are probably living parallel lives, in the same home, but never really deeply joining together any more. In extreme cases, spouses may blame each other for problems in their marriage to escape responsibility or to avoid talking about the problem as a couple.
Many of those couples who score low in the “we-ness” dimension also admit to not being able to communicate with their spouse about their problems because they have such different viewpoints or perceptions. Many of these spouses will appear lonely or isolated because they are not able to receive support from their partners or from others (or feel that way). Sometimes one member of the couple being interviewed will score higher on “we-ness,” while the other emphasizes differences and and separation – a state of affairs implying lack of communication and mutual understanding dangerous to the future of the relationship.
We hope that this has been thought provoking! Rest assured – at one time or another, all of us experience phases in our relationships in which we feel disappointed or disillusioned. This is normal. The key to addressing these feelings is communication and a mutual desire to make an effort to manage these problems, as well as the knowledge necessary to address the problems in a healthy, productive way. On Friday we will share some of these ways!