Predicting Your Breakup, Part 1: Harsh Start-ups

Love, Heartbreak

Over the past twenty-plus years, Dr. John Gottman has conducted an extensive study of long-term partnerships and married couples, seeking to understand how couples who break up and couples who create strong healthy relationships differ. Most of Gottman's early work highlighted the relationship between marital stability and how couples handle conflict.

His more recent books focus on the importance of friendship and fondness as the primary factors that predict the health of a marriage. In other words, how partners behave with each other when they are not fighting is a telling measure of how they are with each other when they do fight. And the tiny behaviors in day to day life can predict couples' longevity!

This fall I will be covering some of Dr. Gottman's predictors of divorce that have to do with how couples communicate with each other about difficult issues, in order to help you be even stronger together long-term.

Part 1: The Harsh Start-Up
Imagine starting a discussion with your partner about something that upsets you. If you are feeling frustrated and resentful you might start with a harsh, sarcastic or critical tone of voice. For example:

"Why are you always so selfish?" or "The problem with you is that you always..." When you read these out of context it is easy to see the accusing and hostile tone. Imagine the body language that you might use when speaking in this tone. This is what we call a harsh startup: starting the conversation with a severe, sharp or accusing tone.

According to Gottman's research, ninety-six percent of the time the start of the argument predicts how it will end (usually negatively and without resolution). Once an argument starts off in a negative direction, it very rarely "rights" itself. Harsh start-ups are strongly associated with divorce and relationship break-up.

Your challenge:
This week notice when you want to hold your partner accountable or ask them to change. Take a moment to think through your startup before you say anything. Do your best to create the best atmosphere for conversation in your tone when you start the conversation.  See how this one second of intention can change the direction of your conversations!

Read Part 2!

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If you want more help moving past resentment or judgment in your relationship, join me for the Letting Go Series this October to let go of relationship patterns that no longer serve you!

This article was originally published at Amplify Happiness Now. Reprinted with permission from the author.