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Researchers believe certain behavior patterns can predict divorce

Some researchers feel certain patterns or behaviors can indicate which couples will divorce.

There are many types of people in the world. Some are quiet, while others are extroverted. Some are passive, while others are domineering. Some are slow and methodical, while others are constantly in motion. Even in close-knit relationships like with siblings and in marriages, different personality dynamics exist. Most of us accept that, as a part of life, we won’t always “see eye-to-eye” with our loved ones. For researchers, though, they say that our behavior and perspective can have consequences we may not yet understand.

A landmark study

New research has come from a landmark study performed by the Relationship Research Institute (RRI) concerning divorce and the factors that lead to a couple’s split. The one aspect that researchers found in common between divorcing couples regardless of socio-economic, racial and cultural disparities is that one or both spouses showed contempt for the other by means of eye-rolling and other disrespectful behaviors.

Lead researcher Dr. John Gottman – co-founder of the RRI and University of Washington psychology professor – found after analysis of thousands of hours of recorded footage, that the simple act of eye-rolling, something many of us do on a daily basis in response to everything from bad drivers to long lines at the grocery store, was more disruptive to a couple’s sense of happiness than other behaviors and patterns. In fact, the presence of repeated eye-rolling was better able to predict divorce than other negative behavior patterns like criticism, defensiveness and so-called “stonewalling” where one spouse essentially shuts the other out emotionally.

Gottman and the team who worked on the study with him feel that the contempt and disrespect shown by one spouse rolling his or her eyes in the face of the other’s questions, statements or behaviors spoke volumes about the lack of happiness, connectedness and mutual respect in a relationship, something that often leads to divorce.

Surprisingly, many of the couples participating in the study stated that they would prefer that they be subjected to yelling or screaming instead of eye-rolling. Researchers theorize that though both behaviors are disrespectful and indicative of communication issues for the couple, at least those who are having a shouting match are actually airing their grievances instead of hiding the meaning behind rolling eyes that don’t actually indicate emotions.

How can this information be helpful?

In its most basic form, the data gathered from Gottman’s study can be used as a cautionary tale. Essentially, couples should take heed before rolling their eyes in response to their spouse, since that behavior can result in larger issues in the future. From a different perspective, though, those in the “divorce industry” will be able to better frame their assistance to a spouse – or to the couple together – if they know that certain patterns of behavior are present. The marriage counselor, therapist, lawyer or judge involved can understand that, due to the presence of these actions, there is a fundamental issue with disrespect and a lack of fruitful communication between partners, so any representation or aid should start there.

If you find that, for whatever reason, your marriage is no longer working, consider speaking with an experienced family law attorney to learn more about separation or divorce options.