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Showing posts from April, 2018

The Secret to a Good Divorce (3)

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Former spouses--or soon-to-be former spouses--have an intimate knowledge of their erstwhile partners. However, they may not be able to name the actual behavior that causes arguments to start. Dr. John Gottman, professor emeritus at the University of Washington and co-founder of the Gottman Institute, has been researching couples's behaviors for over 40 years. He has identified four factors that usually predict nonproductive arguments that go downhill fast.

These factors are criticism (the problem arises out of the other person's character or personality), defensiveness (a spouse counterattacks or whines), contempt (thinking you're better than you are and talking down to your partner), and stonewalling (shutting down and refusing to talk about the issue).

Interestingly, women tend to use criticism more than men, while men tend to stonewall more than women. So if a wife is castigating her husband for being a slob, it would not be unusual for him to shut down and clam up.

If…

The Secret to a Good Divorce (2)

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Imagine, if you will, that a couple (call them A and B) meets at a local Starbucks in an attempt to discuss how to handle the end of their disintegrating relationship. After settling into a corner table, away from other customers, the following conversation ensues:

A: "You know, the breakup of our marriage is your fault. I was willing to go to counseling. I said we should try a vacation, or have a baby, or consider anything you might want to try and save us. But every time I brought up these ideas you didn't want to talk about it."

B: (interrupting) "That's not true. I have always wanted to try to fix things, but you only wanted it your way."

A:  (affronted) "How could you say that?"

B: "Easy. It's the truth." 

Let's pause their conversation at this point. Right now, these words reflect what the couple pictured above are doing. They seek to vilify, discredit, and impugn the other, to try to find a weak spot to punch, and to sting. T…

The Secret to a Good Divorce (1)

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On January 12, 2018, the New York Times published an article titled "The Secret to a Happy Marriage is Knowing How to Fight." Click here to view The author, therapist Daphne de Marneffe, points out that modern couples appear to look upon their wedding as a capstone rather than a cornerstone of their adult life, a sense that they have arrived at their shared future rather than a commitment to it. She acknowledges that weddings are complicated, detail-oriented events, but she expresses concern that, "while they're thinking about the Big Day, they should also think about how they will cope with disagreement."

It's rare to meet any married couple who have thought about how they're going to fight with each other, but it's almost guaranteed that they will. Yes, it's possible that one member of the couple may never disagree with the other, either from fear of creating conflict or genuine disinterest. But for most couples disagreements will pop up shor…