Monday, February 28, 2011
Differences, Conflict and Divorce
The number of children being reared in one parent homes is a national crisis. Divorce leads to a feeling of rejection in the children, poverty for the mother and her kids and a lifetime of misery for most of the adults affected.
This post will focus on the main causes of divorce and what we can do about curing those causes. A few posts ago I talked about the research of Dr. John Gottman, a Psychologist that has spent decades trying to unravel the answer of couple failure. He is pretty sure he has gotten great, applicable insights into why most people divorce and what can keep them together.
The big reason folks do not stay together is an inability to deal effectively with difference between them. The differences do not have to be big or important. It is not the name or type of difference but the style of handling them that counts.
I have often seen lists from therapists and preachers offering the biggest reasons people divorce. They usually include sex, money, in-laws and so on. But according to Dr. Gottman, it is not the content but the process that gets people in trouble. For example, in his research he hooks a couple up to a brain wave machine and asks them to discuss a common activity of the family. Some choose a movie to see, a trip to the zoo or when to have sex. Then he observes what they DO and how they do it.
If the couple handles the discussion of differences in one of three ways, Gottman says they will live together for years. However, if they habitually choose a toxic approach, he thinks they have a very high likelihood of separation and divorce. Some partners never argue but stop the discussion whenever feelings get raw. That marriage will likely last.
Other couples talk every though and feeling thought carefully with great detail and do not get upset. This is the style usually recommended by counselors. However, it is not the only successful style. They will probably stay together.
The third style is feisty and volatile but not attacking. they will make it.
Here is the toxic, divorce producing style: Attack and Hurt Your Partner. Putting each other down, criticism or contempt is a series of ways we can lose our partner.
Next time we will look at the various styles of attack and how to stop them.