These 4 Behaviors Are The Most Accurate Predictors of Divorce

A lot of research has gone into why marriages fail. There are so many different theories, it’s easy to become tangled in the web of information. Websites, blogs, news articles…they all purport to have answers that no one else has.

Heck, if you are reading this blog, you are doing so because you are looking for those same answers, and hoping to find them here. Amazingly, if you look at many of these resources, most will tell you that marriages fail due to infidelity, lack of communication, growing apart, addiction, lack of intimacy…there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of reasons.

Most of these just scratch the surface. This isn’t said to diminish or demean the pain caused by these relationship failures. But things like infidelity, lack of intimacy, etc., are often symptoms rather than the cause. But because these failings are so prevalent, and easily recognizable, it’s easy to just stop there and look no deeper.

That would be a mistake. Because there are deeper issues, and if you think that merely forgiving infidelity or practicing a scripted dialogue model will chip away at the underlying behaviors, then you may need to prepare yourself to revisit the same marital problems over and over again.

Generations Impacted by divorce

For nearly 50 years, marriages have been failing in record numbers. So much so, that roughly half of all marriages now end in divorce. It’s no longer much of a stigma, because all you have to do is look around you, and you literally have a 50/50 chance of seeing someone who has been through a divorce, and a significant percentage of people who have had two more more divorces.

Unfortunately, children of divorced couples don’t really have a solid role model for what a healthy, happy marriage looks like. And they may even pick up a few bad habits themselves, which just continues the cycle into future generations.

A predictable pattern

It is part of human nature to gravitate toward pleasure, and away from pain. I would eat chocolate before broccoli, any day. When we become unhappy in a relationship, our humanness searches for a way to ease the pain, which could be any number of vices: withdrawal from conflict, drinking, emotional or physical affairs, binge eating, gambling….anything that triggers the flood of brain chemicals that temporarily replace the pain of a struggling marriage with comfort and pleasure. Rinse and repeat.

Our desire to avoid pain is so great, that we’ll tip-toe around issues, and ignore signs and symptoms, in the hope that things will just magically get better. We don’t want the conflict involved in trying to improve or change them. By but not facing and dealing with these issues, we are establishing a pattern. A destructive one.

The Four Horsemen

So how do we stop the cycle? Well, for one, we have to have the courage to get to the root of the problem, and not just address the superficial symptoms. We also have to have the courage to lovingly teach our spouses how we want to be treated, and not accepting behavior that is hurtful.

Dr. John Gottman, founder of The Gottman Institute, has spent a lifetime researching marriage and relationships. He has identified four underlying behaviors that will predict the failure of a marriage almost 100% of the time, if not rectified. He calls these behaviors The Four Horsemen.

  • Criticism – This behavior is personal. It goes far beyond merely a complaint. You can often recognize criticism because it is frequently couched in a generalization like “You NEVER….”, or “You ALWAYS…” These clear exaggerations are then often followed by a blanket character assassination, like “You are so selfish,” or you “You are so disrespectful.” The spouse doing the complaining has clearly been hurt by something, but attacking the character of the other spouse or making blanket generalizations is counter-productive. Instead of eliciting positive behavior changes, it just leads to Defensiveness or Stonewalling. There are better, more productive ways to address hurt feelings or express a complaint that does not demean the other person.
  • Contempt – This behavior is usually the final nail in the coffin of a marriage. It is much more heinous than criticism because it comes from a place of superiority. And it’s just plain mean. When one spouse tries to make the other an inferior, it does so much harm to the relationship. How can a marriage be an equal partnership when one spouse thinks they are smarter, better looking, a better parent, better bread-winner, etc.? Communicating with contempt shows a lack of respect, and can often be found in petty behaviors like name-calling and eye-rolling.
  • Defensiveness – A defensive posture is one of deflection. It’s an aggressive way of trying to diffuse a situation by deflecting attention and criticism back to the other spouse in order to avoid dealing with the issue head on. Remember, we are innately creatures that avoid painful situations, and this is one way to do it. It’s a protective measure. Unfortunately, if one spouse is behaving badly, compounding the situation does further harm, and does nothing to teach the other spouse how you want to be treated.
  • Stonewalling – This behavior boils down to a complete communication shut down. A stonewalling spouse is effectively shutting out the other spouse entirely, again as a defense mechanism to ward off discomfort and pain. If this behavior becomes habitual, it may just escalate the behavior of the spouse, who may just be trying to feel heard and understood. Complete and utter avoidance is toxic to a marriage, because it precludes any kind of healthy communication, and can cause a complete disconnection from the other spouse.

Finding hope

If you are reading the descriptions of the Four Horsemen, and saying “yeah, that’s my spouse,” you are missing part of the point. Your spouse may indeed be engaging in any or all of these behaviors, but the point is that these behaviors feed off each other. It takes two people doing this dance to effectively kill a marriage. And often times what we tend to see in others what is mirrored within ourselves.

Let me say that a different way, because it is so incredibly important. The faults and failings we see in others are often our own faults and failings reflected back at us. Assigning blame or failing to recognize our own culpability is another avoidance technique. To avoid the hard work of fixing ourselves, we assume that just fixing our spouse will fix the marriage. Not so. It’s easy to blame, and much more difficult to see your own responsibility.

Is there hope? Absolutely. Change starts with you. You can’t control your spouse’s behavior, but you can control yours. Change the conversation. If your spouse is behaving badly, instead of responding in kind, respond with compassion and understanding. It may be hard, and uncomfortable. We certainly aren’t wired to walk willingly toward uncomfortable situations. While it’s ultimately essential that both spouses work on culling this behavior, one of you must at least make the first step to break the vicious cycle.

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8 Ways To Make Your Wife Feel Special

Marriage thrives on open communication. Just as you may be quick to give constructive feedback when something isn’t quite right, the soul also craves those little affirmations that remind your spouse or significant other that you notice the little things, are still glad you chose her, and that she makes your life complete.

You may find, in doing some of these suggestions below, that your girl begins to find creative ways to send you similar affirmations. Happiness is contagious, after all.

Note: In an attempt to avoid redundancy, let’s just state, right now, that throughout all these suggestions is an understood agreement that social media and hand-held devices are not be used when you are attempting to make your girl feel special. Distracted attention is no attention at all.

Build her up, don’t tear her down

It’s easy to get caught up in the every day, and when something goes wrong, we are quick to judge. If you’ve been together awhile, it’s easy to think your girl has developed a thick skin and doesn’t need an ego boost. And while she probably isn’t that fragile, and doesn’t really need an empty compliment or fluffy poetry, she does need frequent reminders that YOU haven’t changed. That YOU still find her amazingly beautiful, inside and out. That YOU couldn’t live without her and are glad you chose her. It doesn’t always have to be with words, although those are nice, too. It’s in the way you look at her. It’s in your touch. It’s in your willingness to make time for her.

Kiss. A lot.

If you have kids, now is the time to gross them out. It’s not just about the passionate kissing that you hope will lead somewhere. It’s the affectionate kisses that are manna for the soul. The little caresses that tell her that you love her so much, you just have to be near her. The playful smooches that tell her that you love the way her nose tilts up, or the dimple on her cheek. The little reminders that you haven’t forgotten how ticklish she is on her neck, and you love it when kissing her there makes her giggle.

Listen without Distraction

Maybe her pet cat died, or maybe her best friend is going through a divorce. Her sister just lost a baby. She has problems at work. What ever it is, she just needs to talk. She’s not asking you to solve her problems. She’s not asking you take action on her behalf. She wants you to listen. She wants to cry on your shoulder and know that you are there for her, and that you support her no matter what. Don’t turn the game on. Don’t look constantly at your phone. Don’t try to minimize her problems by belittling them or trying to trump them with your own problems. Just listen. Give her a safe harbor.

Don’t let a day go by without saying “I Love You”

When you have been together awhile, it’s easy to get into a rhythm. You’ve told her you love her hundreds of times. Do you really need to say it again? Yes! If you can’t be with her, or you are out of town, send her a text. Leave her a voicemail. Make a “date” to talk on the phone at a specific time each night. Whatever works best for you. But don’t let a day go by without sayting those words.

Have a regular date night

If you are married and have kids, or even if you are in a long-term relationship, sometimes dates seem to go by the wayside in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. You are busy playing taxi, working, keeping up the house, working out. Whatever the excuses are, you need to make regular time for each other.

Time away from the noise, so you can remember what it’s like to flirt with each other over a glass of wine, or talk about your future on along walk while holding hands. Make the time, and give her your undivided attention. If you’re struggling for date ideas, read this article written by my wife, 8 free date ideas for couples to do.

Go on a couples retreat

No, this isn’t like the movie. And it’s not couples counseling, either. Most marriage or couples retreats aren’t about saving the relationship, but about deepening it. Usually, women have to drag their men kicking and screaming to something like this.

How truly valued would your woman feel if you turned the tables on her, and you suggested it? Even better if you already have one picked out! She will know she picked a good man if you not only go, but fully participate. Just don’t pick a retreat that might embarrass her, like some sort of sex seminar or Tantric Yoga class. You might lose a few brownie points for being self-serving.

Learn how to give a good massage

Guys, this is a good one. Your girl works hard, whether she is a hire powered exec or a stay-at-home mom. She is under a lot of stress, keeping the house, her job, and her life running smoothly. Nothing says “I appreciate all you do” more than a good massage.

A simple shoulder rub is nice, but a full massage is even better. And invest some time in learning how to do it right. She’ll appreciate the time you’ve taken to focus on her, and your skills will help her relax and recharge.

Don’t forget your anniversary

Of course, this is a bit of a cliche. But there are lots of little details about your life together, and you will really please her if you can remember at least some of them. Your anniversary, her birthday, the anniversary of your first date, your first kiss…even if you have to put some of the dates in your calendar to help you remember them, do it. It’s little details that show her you pay attention, and that she is important.

Hopefully you have found some useful tip here. You can probably come up with a list of 10-15 more items on your own, specifically tailored to your girl and what she likes. The key is to make sure it’s focused on her (not what you could get out of it), and requires you to give your undivided attention while participating with her. She will love you for it.

Good Men Don’t Cheat…and Here Are 10 Reasons Why

I recently read an article that suggested that over 70% of all men have cheated while in a monogamous relationship.

Whether or not you agree with that number (and believe me, there is a lot of wiggle room in statistics like this), adultery is a growing problem.

I’ve even discussed 7 ways to move pass an affair for those who are stuck in a cycle of infidelity.

A lot of time and energy has been spent on the reasons why men cheat (and women, too!), but I wanted to shift the focus a bit. Why not celebrate all the truly good men out there, and explore all the reason’s why they DON’T cheat?

So here is a great list of 10 reasons why the best men never cheat. It’s certainly not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start!

The best men know that love is a decision and not a feeling.

Honestly, understanding this fundamental concept takes a great deal of maturity, and boys in the throes of post-pubescent hormones are not likely to pick up on the subtlety. Feelings of love, like that rush you feel when love is new, is a chemical reaction. It’s infatuation. And it’s temporary. REAL love is a decision made every day, to love that other person, morning breath and all, no matter what. And if you wake up making that decision day after day, cheating is the furthest thing from your mind.

The best men are mature enough to curb their impulses.

We’ve all seen the news articles. The headlines scream, “Humans not wired to be Monogamous”…or something to that effect. While somewhere in our distant Neanderthal past, that may have been true, humans are at the top of the food chain partially because of the ability to put off instant gratification. To make a choice not to act on impulse.

Many times, having an affair begins as an impulsive act. So while you may really want a second cheeseburger, you don’t take it because you know it’s not good for you. The best men will say “I pass,” when offered that second cheeseburger, or when another woman offers herself up for the taking.

The best men respect women. All women.

The best men grow up respecting women. They respect their mothers. Their fathers respected their mothers, They were taught to treat every woman as if her father would be waiting up on the front porch with a hunting rifle if she returned home late from a date.

It’s not about just respecting their wives, although the best men do indeed respect their wives. It’s about respecting all women. While she’s sometimes forgotten, the “other woman” is also someone’s daughter or someone’s spouse. Cheating on your wife dishonors her in a profound way. And you also disrespect the other woman. The best men refuse to disrespect any woman by offering promises they can’t keep.

The best men turn towards their wives, not away from them.

When the road gets rough, whether it be at work or at home, it’s easy to seek an escape. To shut out all the noise for awhile, and just have sex. Or to just talk to someone. It’s cathartic. It’s a release. But the best men seek the comfort they need from their wives, and not from other women.

Once you open that lid, it’s difficult to put Pandora back in the box. If you need to pour your heart out to someone, it should be the person you promised to share your life with in good and bad times. The best men don’t have to be reminded of this.

The best men value the lives they have built too much to risk it.

Building a life together, having children together, growing old together. These are dreams common when newlyweds embark on their new lives of wedded bliss. And it takes work to get there, to build those dreams. Whether you are just starting out or empty nesting, the life you have built has value beyond the monetary, and it’s interwoven with the lives of so many other people. Putting all that at risk for a quick tumble is not in the nature of the best of men.

The best men don’t need their egos constantly massaged.

Let’s face it, everyone, man or woman, needs a ego boost now and then. Don’t get me wrong. And a healthy relationship has a good deal of ego, ehem…massaging. The best men, however, don’t need a conquest to feed their inner randy, young bucks. They don’t need notches on the bedpost to feel powerful and appreciated. Their pride is in their family and a strong, healthy marriage.

The best men keep promises.

Even if all the other things on this list weren’t true, keeping promises would be enough for the best men to never cheat. For the best men, promise-keeping is essential to their nature, because they have worked hard to earn earn the respect of their wives and friends. Any vow or oath is not given lightly, but with great care and intention to honor it no matter what, because the best men have integrity and self-worth.

The best men set good examples for their children.

Children’s first teachers are parents. They watch everything, absorb everything. Imagine what the world would be like if every child had fathers who demonstrate for their sons how to be one of the best men, and demonstrates for their daughters how they should expect to be treated by future best men! It’s a dream we can all hope for. But in the mean time, it’s enough to know that many of the best men out there are currently raising the future generation of best men.

The best men avoid potential compromising situations.

It may take a bit of practice, or a certain level of maturity, but the best men will not put themselves in situations that could quickly transition into a potentially compromising situation. Best men will not frequent a friend’s house when the friend’s wife is there by herself. He doesn’t frequent bars to hang out with lonely women. They don’t close the door when their hot secretary is their office. The best men recognize these situations before they happen and prevent them if at all possible.

The best men simply have better things to do than cheat.

A happy family is a busy family. Whether it’s kids and sports, community service, church groups, work, home chores, and finding time every day to make your spouse feel special, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to have an affair, plus hide all the evidence and obsess over getting caught. The best men never cheat, because they are happily busy being husbands.

While this article is a bit tongue in cheek, and we had a bit of fun with it, I do want to end on a serious not. I once heard a saying. I couldn’t find who to attribute it to, but it goes something like this: Building a bridge takes 110% effort from both sides. If you build a bridge with 110% effort from only one side, it will fall in the water. While this article focused on the best of men and why they would never cheat, a successful marriage depends on 110% from both sides. Even the best of men, giving 110%, will fall in the water if there is no one to meet them from the other side.

10 Things Women Really Crave in a Relationship

After writing 9 Ways to Show Your Man You Love Him  and getting such positive feedback, I’ve decided to write something for the guys discussing what women are looking for in a relationship.

The truth is some guys don’t have any idea how to be a good husband and/or how to court a lady properly.

The new age media outlet have really watered down the role of a husband. You can see it in shows like Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, which is a hot mess by the way.

Because of this media driven secular movement very few men are plugged into the very things that women yearn from their man.

What do women really want?

It’s like women and men exist on different parallel planes, and it takes some effort on either party to shift and allow those planes to cross each other. It’s at the crossing point that clarity happens, and it happens much more easily and quickly if both partners shift towards each other.

Below you will find a list of examples of what many women want out of a relationship. Every woman is unique, though, so you will need to spend some time paying attention to details and listening to what your wife or girlfriend has to say. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

She is equal and expects to be treated accordingly

Her maternal ancestors have spent more than a century fighting for equality. The world isn’t perfect, but in her relationships a woman wants her man to acknowledge her equality. It’s not something you declare, but it’s in your actions.

Don’t hide financial problems from her. Involve her. And involve her in budgets and future financial planning, too. Don’t hide your problems at work from her. Confide in her. Don’t patronize her interests because they aren’t “manly”. Participate with her.

She expects honesty

Honesty goes hand-in-hand with trust. It’s hard for her to trust you if she suspects you might be hiding something. I’m not talking about the type of honesty tied to vanity (no one ever wants to answer the question “Does this make me look fat?”). She particularly craves honesty about your feelings, the relationship, and your lives together.

She wants to trust and be trusted

You want to go out with friends after work to watch the big game, so you tell your wife you have to work late. She calls you two hours later to find out if she should expect you for dinner, and hears crowded noises in the background. Not a recipe for trust, my friend.

Be where you say you’ll be, do what you say you’ll do, and be home when you say you’ll be home. And be honest if some of the people you’ll be hanging out with are also women. If you’ve struggled with honesty in the past, it’s probably a good idea to read my latest blog post, 10 Reasons why good men will NEVER cheat.

In this day and age, with women being equal and all (see above), it’s not uncommon. But if you aren’t up front about it, it will look like you are hiding something. Likewise, she wants to know that you trust her. Unless she has done something to make you suspicious, don’t act as if you don’t trust her.

She wants time and attention

When I say time and attention, I mean undivided time and attention. If you take your wife out to dinner, but spend 50% of the time checking Facebook and Instagram, or your work email, then that does not qualify as time and attention. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but just make time and give her your 100% attention.

She want to know she is desirable

As I’ve discussed in 8 Ways To Make Your Wife Feel Special, women like to be pursued. Regardless of whether the relationship is new, or after 25 years, four babies and gray hair, a woman wants to know that her husband finds her desirable.

Engage in playfully sexual flirting, find reasons to gently touch her…often. Don’t hide that lascivious look when you catch a peek while she is dressing. Even if your flirting doesn’t always lead to sex, helping her feel desirable can help renew intimacy.

She craves dependability

The world is a crazy, sometimes scare place. And while your wife or girlfriend may be strong and independent, there are going to be times that she will need you. She will need your support emotionally, mentally, maybe even physically.

For richer in poorer, in sickness and in health. Girls may find bad boys exciting, and they may think they want a life filled with adventures, but when it comes to choosing the person she will spend her life with, in all likelihood she will prefer a man that she knows will stand beside her through it all.

She wants to laugh

Laughter is the best medicine, especially after a stressful day at work or taking care of the kids. A man who goes out of his way to make her smile is a gem. Looks fade, bodies soften, hair turns gray…but a twinkle in the eye and a quick wit are beyond measure.

She wants intimacy

Notice I didn’t say “sex” here. For many guys, sex and intimacy are one and the same. For a woman, they are not. If you have taken the time to establish a strong, intimate connection with your spouse, then you will likely not complain too much about your sex life, though! Make it your mission to find ways to be intimate, without pressuring for sex. Cuddle. Have deep conversations. Touch. Listen.

She wants acceptance

Too often in a relationship, we have hidden expectations of what we think marriage and married life is about. These may come from what we observed of our own parents, friends, books we read, and even media. However, she is an individual, which means accepting all of her, faults and all.

She will have insecurities. She won’t do everything perfectly, and neither will you. Trying to make her more like your mother, or criticizing her, just damages trust and increases insecurities. Encourage her and accept her, and she will do the same for you.

She wants the fairy tale

Girls are conditioned from a very young age to look for Prince Charming (thanks, Disney!). Your wife knows intellectually that Prince Charming doesn’t exist (most men are more like Beast, anyway), and that fairy tales aren’t real. But deep down, in her heart of hearts, your wife wants the magic. She want the romance. She wants the happily ever after.

It doesn’t mean your perfectly princely manners have be on display all the time, but, within your means, look for opportunities to give her a magical evening once in awhile. Even if it is just a rooftop picnic under the stars, don’t be afraid of a little whimsy once in awhile. Let your inner prince shine through.

Take these ideas, and make them your own. No relationship is perfect, but if you spend some time observing and listening, you can figure out what your wife or significant other is looking for in your relationship. Even if you don’t quite get it right every time, she will love the fact that you cared enough to make the effort.