8 Couple Relationships

Based on Research by John Gottman, Ph.D. Psychology Science Minute written by Sarah Arnett, Psy.D.

Psychology Science Minute brought to you by the School of Psychology at Florida Institute of Technology, I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett

Like most little girls, I dreamed of finding my prince charming and living happily ever after. We’re all read the stories of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty yet these stories never showed us how happily ever after could last. What is it that leads some to marital bliss while others to a quick divorce?

Dr. John Gottman, a leading researcher on marital satisfaction, sought out answers to such questions. Over the past thirty years he developed the ability to predict with 95 percent accuracy whether a couple will divorce based on watching a brief interaction. He identified four factors that are toxic to marriages:  first is criticism, which comes across as “you” statements such as “You never listen to me,” 2. contempt which is anger, 3.defensiveness and 4. stonewalling meaning ignoring your partner and acting as if you were a stone wall.

Thankfully there are solutions: Reduce criticism by valuing each other.  Every day compliment your partner.  Avoid angry or sarcastic statements and stonewalling by using I statements such as “I feel hurt when or I am worried about…” preventing a defensive reaction. Take 10 minutes each night to share about your day.

That’s your Florida Tech Psychology Science Minute. I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett.


General Reference with a collection of research and an excellent scientific resource:

Gottman, J. (1994). What Predicts Divorce? The relationship between marital processes and marital outcomes. Hilldale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Peer reviewed research references:

Gottman, John M.1 ((1982). Emotional responsiveness in marital conversations.  Journal of Communication. Vol 32(3), Sum, pp. 108-120.

Gottman, John M.1& Krokoff, Lowell J. (1989). Marital interaction and satisfaction: A longitudinal view. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Vol 57(1), pp. 47-52.

Gottman, John M.1; Levenson, Robert W. (1992). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol 63(2), pp. 221-233.

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