Why do couples separate? What causes them to give up and throw in the towel? Why is it that, after all the courtship and shared happiness, two people who are supposedly in love, decide to part ways?

John Gottman, Ph.D., marriage therapist and author of the book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work has spent four decades studying the reason most couples divorce, and he found what he considers as the number one predictor of a divorcecontempt.

According to relationship therapists Mike McNulty, PhD, LCSW, arguing from time to time is healthy in any relationship, but when you’ve reached a certain level of annoyance and disgust towards your partner, this is when it becomes unhealthy. Although fights will surface, how you handle them will make or break your relationship.

“Partners who do not handle discussions of these problems well are at the most risk of divorce.” He also added that those who are bound to split up have the following tendencies, “They become angry and use what we call the four horsemen of the apocalypse or negative patterns of communication, which are criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness.”

To avoid any kind of contempt, avoid gestures that imply your annoyance such as sneering, rolling your eyes, and making passive-aggressive comments. Another way to steer clear of harbouring bad feelings towards your partner is to learn how to listen to them truly and deeply. McNulty adds that when you want to voice out your opinion, do it in a calm amnner without blaming the other person. It will also do you some good if you re-evaluate your expectations to avoid getting disappointed.

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