There’s no crystal ball to predict which marriages will last, but scientists found the relationships that eventually fail have certain traits in common. Dr. John Gottman is the director of Seattle University’s “Love Lab.” He has studied thousands of couples for decades, and can predict with 94% accuracy whether a relationship will fail. And here are the traits he says are the most reliable predictors of a breakup:
- Criticism – or attacks on your partner’s personality or character and saying things like “You never help with anything,” or “Why are you always late?”
- Contempt – or direct insults, sarcasm and feeling that you’re better than your partner. Like saying “Oh yeah, THAT’s a smart move!”
- Being defensive. This is where you dismiss your partner’s complaint and attack them, like “So what if I’m late, you’re way too uptight.”
- Stonewalling. There’s trouble ahead when you flatly refuse to discuss problems with your partner.
Another sign of a relationship on the rocks? You have a hard time remembering positive, shared moments, like, "Remember the crazy road trip we took to the mountains? When your truck got stuck in the mud and we played cards for 2 hours until the tow truck came? You kicked my butt at Gin Rummy!" Or you remember those experiences negatively, like, "We were trapped for 2 hours and it felt like 2 days! We were so bored; we had to play cards.”
So, how can you improve your relationship? Here’s what it takes:
- Happy couples say their spouse makes them feel good about themselves. 67% of the time. Therapist Dr. Terri Orbuch says that’s compared to only 27% of the time for unhappy couples. She explains that one way to make your partner feel good is to make more positive comments than negative ones. And she recommends that during an argument, you should share five positives for every negative, while in normal conversation, it should be 20 nice things for every negative.
- Don’t assume your partner already knows you’re grateful for what they bring to the table. So, make it a habit to say “Thank you.” And get specific, like, “When you cook me dinner, I feel loved and you make a mean lasagna!”
- You also need to keep working on your relationship. And one of the best ways is to try new activities together – anything from Thai cooking classes to dance lessons. That’s because new activities increase production of the feel-good chemical dopamine, which is released when we first fall in love. So, simply by doing new things together, you’ll get those loving feelings back.