Predictors of Marital Success and Failure

A large portion of my class today was spent on techniques for marital therapy. We got sidetracked in a discussion about predictors of marital success and failure. Seems most things you think will save your marriage won’t and things you think will sink your marriage aren’t a predictor at all. Go figure.

This is all based on the research of John Gottman, one of the leading marriage researchers in the world. Visit his site and take the relationship quiz, to see how well you’re doing.

Anyway, onto the supposed predictors:

Marital Success Predictors

1. Resolving Problems – does not predict anything, couples who fail in marriage never resolve 69% of problems. Couples who succeed in their marriage never resolve 69% of problems.

2. Avoiding Conflict – does not predict success, in fact its a predictor of failure.

3. Giving value to one another’s advice – HIGH PREDICTOR, especially from the man. Women respond especially high to this as an important component to the success of the relationship.

4. Equality in Marriage- HIGH PREDICTOR in our culture.

5. Having enough money – does not predict success, even poor people can have a happy relationship

6. Making the relationship a priority – HIGH PREDICTOR – DUH!

7. Having good friends as a couple – does not predict. So you don’t have to have couple dates. Those can be as awful as dating in the first place.

8. Good sex life – does not predict – sorry guys, even people who have great sex still get divorced.

9. Being good friends with each other – HIGH PREDICTOR – funny you have to actually like your spouse for the marriage to work

10. Having children – does not predict, so having a child does not save your marriage, don’t try it.

11. Being in love – does not predict, love is only the beginning and should be a verb not a feeling. Love is a decision you have to make everyday. A good marriage is based on commitment.

12. Being able to disagree – HIGH PREDICTOR – means both people are present and involved, conflict builds intimacy. Go with it, work it out, it will make you feel closer and that you are building something together. Be worried if you don’t have any conflict or disagreements.

Supposed Marital Unhappiness/Failure Predictors

1. Arguing – does not predict failure, everyone can be The Bickersons on occasion.

2. Criticizing – HIGH PREDICTOR of failure, especially for men, they are especially sensitive and need to feel supported.

3. Ignoring Problems – HIGH PREDICTOR – sounds right, you cannot be passive about your marriage. It is something you have to fight for everyday!

4. Sacrificing Yourself for your partner! – HIGH PREDICTOR – you need to maintain a healthy sense of self and make sure you stay differentiated. If you’re catering to them you are probably getting boring and predictable. This is not to be confused with compromise – totally different.

5. Harshness on the part of the wife – see #2 – men are more sensitive than we thought

6. Contemptuousness  – HIGH PREDICTOR, this is the final step in the breakdown of communication.

7. Differences in Sexual Desire – does not predict, again, sorry guys, this is empirical scientific research

8. Lack of talking (introvert) – does not predict, not the same as lack of communication.

9 Depression in one or both partners – HIGH PREDICTOR, get help! Everything is shutting down for one partner, the relationship cannot grow in this state.

10. Physical exhaustion – does not predict – take a nap, stop being so damn grouchy

11. Job Stress – does not predict – be supportive

12. One person makes all the decision – HIGH PREDICTOR – it takes two to make a good marriage, see #4.

13. Passage of time – does not predict. Just because you have been together for a while, it doesn’t mean you’re connecting or immune to problems and/or divorce.

14. Emotional or verbal withdrawal (stonewalling, shut down) – HIGH PREDICTOR. Men are the ones most culpable of this. They get emotionally flooded and can’t take it and since women can do the laundry, balance the checkbook and tell their spouse why they suck we stay connected a lot of the time. It’s a gift 🙂

Very interesting.


About Marti

After a year-long sabbatical in Southern California I am returning to Ohio to try and resume my life. Who knew you went home again to start living.

Posted on November 12, 2005, in Psychobabbling and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. This is such a beautiful write-up.. thanks! helped me get some cues!

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