To take a vow and intimately share your life with a partner is a beautiful thing.

Unfortunately, love and words are not enough to sustain a marriage across a lifetime. Marriage requires an incredible amount of work between two people.

There are signs of fracture that if not caught and mended, will lead to an unfortunate break. A marriage ending in divorce is not inevitable, though.

Predicting divorce is not certain. Psychologists and therapists can predict it, but only to offer tools to mend.

Read on to learn more about the signs of an impending divorce, and what you and your partner can do to reverse it.


Four Horsemen

There are many signs of a healthy marriage. Honesty, controlled body language, communication are some of the general attributes of a healthy relationship.

While there are numerous signs of a healthy marriage, Dr. John Gottman concluded there are four major symptoms that predict which marriages will fail.

He calls these “The Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse.”

These four indicators are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Each of these symptoms and a confluence of them in your relationship are helpful in predicting divorce.


Criticism is usually the first horseman to appear in an unhealthy relationship. On the surface, these criticisms can be innocuous or given in a joking manner.

Yet, consistent criticisms reveal an underlying communication problem. Their constant use is one of the main factors that cause a marriage to fail.

A good example of criticism is any phrase beginning with the words, “You’re so.”

Whether said in a joking or stern manner, these forms of criticism wear a partner down and wreck their self-esteem within a relationship.

While it’s impossible to not have criticisms of your partner, or your partner to not have criticisms of you, a better form of communication is “Can you do A, because I need B from you.”

Though not always easy, softening criticisms through discussion rather than prodding can yield better results.


Contempt is a blaring siren to marriage counselors that a marriage is in deep trouble.

Contempt rears its head in different forms like mean-spirited humor, name-calling, and sarcasm. It can also show in the body language of two partners when they communicate with one another like eye-rolls and sneers.

This behavior stems from long-occurring negative thought patterns from one partner toward another. It is the feeling that a partner is somehow beneath you, and unwilling to change.

While corrosive, contempt usually does not rise of its own accord. In relationships that are not emotionally abusive, contempt comes about thanks to repeated behaviors.

It is important to remember that with any of these, there is not one partner who is right or wrong.


There could be a myriad of reasons why you or your partner are defensive. So often, our defensiveness when in conflict stems from deep-seated psychological issues we have never examined.

Regardless of where defensiveness stems from, it’s a communication problem that is always found in marriages that are on the verge of collapse.

This is an inability to accept responsibility for one’s behavior, and often results in a breakdown of communication in conflict. Often, the defensive partner will immediately place blame on the partner when notified of their own shortcomings.

Given that defensiveness is a “behavioral blind spot” and probably exists outside of the marriage as a deep psychological issue, this is often corrected with one on one therapy rather than couples counseling.


Stonewalling is exactly what it sounds like. It is a complete disengagement from a relationship by a partner, and it is often the most damaging and biggest factor in predicting divorce.

This behavior often is a summation of the three other horsemen, where when faced with conflict a partner becomes overwhelmed and stops communicating completely.

Stonewalling is especially damaging because it’s often interpreted as a sign that the partner has given up on the marriage.

Studies show that men are particularly prone to marriage stonewalling. If this behavior continues unabated, it will lead to detachment and avoidance, which are extremely hard to fix.

While men are more likely to stonewall, a woman who exhibits this behavior is a key trend in predicting divorce.


Marriage Counseling

If you see these Four Horsemen in your relationship, understand there is still hope. Couples who are ineffective communicators can repair their marriage through couples counseling.

Often, couples are ill-equipped to handle the issues that arise in a marriage or long-term partnership. Without strategy and tools, the issues build until they are insurmountable. This will lead to divorce.

Marriage counseling can help two partners who cannot communicate with one another. Assisted by thoughtful mediation, you and your partner can begin the work of constructing a healthy and sustainable marriage.

Understand, though, that marriage counseling is a way to heal a marriage only if both partners are willing to be open and engage fully. It will not help or provide the necessary strategy to maintain a healthy relationship if one partner is unwilling.


Predicting Divorce

Dr. John Gottman’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” is helpful for predicting divorce. Yet, a prediction doesn’t mean divorce is inevitable.

Even if you and your partner show the signs, there are ways to reverse course and start anew. You can save your marriage with the help of a couples therapist.

Understand it will not be easy. You and your partner will be prompted to break down the walls between you and the psychological issues that affect how you both face conflict.

Through this, you can gain a whole new love language that will provide a path across the rough ocean of a lifetime partnership.

For more information, or to schedule a free consultation please fill out this form.


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