Communication patterns between couples in New Jersey and around the country can predict the likelihood of divorce according to Dr. John Gottman, the author of “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail”. His research involved observing thousands of couples engage in arguments in a laboratory setting. He identified the most toxic communication traits as criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt, with contempt being the most destructive to a relationship.
His clinical insights have earned him a reputation for being able to predict divorces with an accuracy that exceeds 90 percent. He believes that a partner who treats the other person with contempt eats away at that person’s sense of worth. The effects of contemptuous treatment are so psychologically upsetting that he found that contempt-filled relationships impact the partners’ health. Couples exhibiting this communication pattern experience higher rates of infectious sickness, he said.
Contemptuous actions include calling someone names, sarcastic mocking, vicious humor and body language like rolling the eyes. Contempt destroys people’s ability to maintain a bond. Conscious effort, however, might undo the damage if both parties work hard to correct their negative behaviors and focus on what they used to love about each other.
Sometimes attempts to reconcile do not succeed, and a person chooses to pursue a divorce. This route will require the legal separation of property and a formal parenting plan if children are involved. Advice from an attorney could inform a client about how to navigate the process. If open hostilities exist between the former partners, an attorney might manage the divorce negotiations to buffer the client from difficult conversations about child custody or property division.