When it comes to relationships, everyone has their own biases and opinions based either on past bitter experiences or having been in a long-term relationship. Yet, there is a plethora of research that can offer some advice instead of relying on hearsay or people’s past negative experiences. Recent research gives advice on knowing if your relationship will last or not. How you start discussions with your partner is absolutely vital in determining your future prospects together. It’s not how much you argue, but how you argue that determines your relationship prognosis. According to this well regarded research, how you handle the first two minutes of disagreements or disputes reliably predicts your chances of being together 5 years later. Generally, the more negative emotions you display during this initial period, the more likely your relationship is to fail. Apparently, the best predictor of a relationship that will survive is a FEMALE partner that can initiate discussion of a problem without negative emotion or criticism. Below are some “relationship” start-ups that can lead to disaster:
A) Criticism rather than complaint
Attacking statements starting with ‘you’ are criticisms. A complaint would often start with an ‘I’ statement and be far less confrontational and lets the person know how you feel. Example: “You always say things like that!” would be a criticism. Whereas: “I really don’t like it when you refuse to speak to my mother!” would be a specific complaint and not a global attack on your partner’s character.
Another major predictor of eventual relationship breakdown is over-defensiveness. If someone begins yelling as soon as their partner broaches a subject and feels overly threatened or attacked and this is a continuing and regular feature of the couple’s interactions then the relationship is in crisis.
Name calling, face pulling, cursing at, insulting your partner and basically behaving as if you are revolted by them can be termed ‘contempt.’ Again John Gottman and his researchers (1) in Seattle found that if this was a regular feature in the startup phase of a disagreement then the relationship’s days were very likely to be numbered and the couple much less likely to last.
D) Withdrawal or ‘stone walling
Emotionally withdrawing or stonewalling, ‘closing your ears’ or ‘shutting off’ when a partner is complaining is another huge predictor of breakdown. While criticizing was generally more of a female trait, men used stonewalling more. The partner may withdraw during conversations by ‘switching off’ or ultimately spend more and more time away from the relationship as a way of ‘escaping.’
Rather surprisingly, if even one of these factors (A to D) is present regularly in disputes, the outlook for the relationship is poor.