Monday, 20 September 2010

Can Divorce Be Predicted?

John Gottman, the pre-eminent marriage clinician, states that he can predict, with over 90 percent accuracy, whether or not a couple will stay together. He bases his predictions on listening to a couple discuss a topic that has in the past been charged with emotion. In a recent blog post on the Marriage Counseling Blog the headline read “The No. 1 Predictor of Divorce” which went on to say that the habitual avoidance of conflict is the number one predictor of divorce.


It is a little difficult to see where these two theories converge, if they in fact do. By listening to how a couple handles conflict Gottman can predict the ultimate success or failure of the relationship. Yet theory number two would have us believe that avoiding conflict all together leads to divorce. So bottom line whether you have conflict and avoid it or you have conflict and handle it in a way that is destructive you are headed to divorce court. And just like the weather person has a fifty percent chance of being right, so too do these two theories based on the rate of divorce within the general population.

I could be as accurate by asserting that fifty percent of all married women who eat chocolate get divorced.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a high regard for John Gottman’s research and I believe that conflict avoidance can certainly contribute to marital dissatisfaction. I think underlying both of these theories is a claim made in the Book of James, i.e. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (James 4:1)

In the final analysis it is all about me (and you). When my desires are not met I might get ugly and attack your character. If I want peace and quiet and you keep nagging me I might just tune you out completely. These responses are two of Gottman’s four horsemen, the predictors of divorce. When enough of my desires are not met I have an emotional tantrum and run away from home, i.e. divorce. Your desires are also thwarted if I am unwilling to engage you in an adult conversation by merely withdrawing.

In either case it is about me, my wants and my desires. It is self-centeredness that is the number one cause of divorce. James suggests that the answer is to take your desires to God and leave them with Him. If your desires are in accordance with His plan for your life most likely they will be fulfilled in some way. If they are not in accordance with His plan for your life you don’t want them fulfilled.

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