How To Predict Your Own Divorce

relationships take work

This blog often reports about the findings that predict happy relationships. Spouses who are agreeable, secure, and don’t seek novelty. Husbands who help out with housework and childrearing. Wives who appreciate and  accept their husbands. Couples who are college-educated, over the age of 30, and waited 2 years before getting hitched.

But it’s just as informative to look at what causes divorce, and nobody does it better than John Gottman at the Gottman Institute. He has studied thousands of couples over the past 40 years and his research can be summarized in a neat infographic.

Women, for better or worse, are the caretakers of relationship. Men are usually content with a relationship even when it’s broken, which is why women have to bring issues up.

Some of the highlights:

Women bring up 80% of relationship issues.

The  ones who shut down and refuse to talk about these issues? 85% of them are men.

69% of  conflict in relationships is unresolvable, perpetual problems.

And the four predictors of divorce are things I’m sure you are familiar with:

  • Criticism (sharing a complaint while putting the blame on your partner)
  • Contempt (negative thoughts about your partner coming from a position of superiority)
  • Defensiveness (self-protecting either in the form of victimizing yourself or righteous indignation)
  • Stonewalling (emotionally withdrawing from your partner.)

I think this  confirms things we already know.

Women, for better or worse, are the caretakers of relationship. Men are usually content with a relationship even when it’s broken, which is why women have to bring issues  up.  When women bring things up, men tend to shut down or pull away.

This means that they are often poor communicators, but it also may mean that women have too many complaints, expect too much of men, and don’t know how to deliver their feedback in a way that men can listen.

And if you look at your relationship and see that you are the person who is critical  and contemptful,  you’d a) better check your attitude and b) choose a different partner who doesn’t make you so critical and contemptful.

Your thoughts, below, are appreciated.

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  1. 1
    Alex Lanz

    Thank you Evan! It’s always great to hear this especially after just going through something similar. See, My boyfriend of almost two (2) years has recently been working a lot! Accordingly, I tend to only receive good morning and good night texts from him. He is busy.

    Well, on Monday I had enough and during an emotional moment, I text my boyfriend and asked him if he was still interested in me otherwise to let me know so I can move on. Yes, I text that. Yes, I am embarrassed. Yes, I wish I had not. But I did, and that made him feel like I was not supporting him. And I am. But allowing an emotional moment to take over, I completely overreacted and became an unnecessary victim. Which I am not. We have an amazing relationship. I was just being stupid. I am happy to read this and I am even happier I have a boyfriend who is patient with me and hard working. I need to applaud him and all other men for this. Sometimes hormones and emotions……well I am sorry.

    BUT….on a happy note, these types of reactions are allowing me to see myself more clear and think before I do or say. I am learning a lot about myself and about my boyfriend. That makes me happy. I need to appreciate him and he will do the same.

    Thank you again Evan 🙂

  2. 2
    In Not Of

    I wonder if relationships tend to work better when the man is the more emotional one and the woman is the more pragmatic one.

    1. 2.1
      Karmic Equation

      This was the case with my bf of 6 years. I always joked that he “thought with his heart” instead of his head. It was one of the things I really appreciated about him as he got me more in touch with my feelings.

      The downside of that was sad things made him sadder than me, although, perhaps it was his Irish heritage, his highs were not as low as his lows.

      I thought he was my best complement.

      Until the current bf, surprise. lol.

      Time will tell if I’m right or wrong on this.

    2. 2.2

      It doesn’t. My ex-boyfriend was too emotional and wanted to talk about every little thing, for me it was exhausting and too invasive. He was a better talker than me, so somehow if I raised any issue he would convince me that I am wrong and he is right, so I just stopped talking altogether. In my opinion, if something bothers me, there is no wrong or right and if I feel that way, he can choose to continue with the same behavior and I will have my conclusions or to change it but never make me feel bad or stupid or jealous like he did.

      1. 2.2.1

        It doesn’t sound like too much emotion is the problem here though.

    3. 2.3

      It does not. My husband was more emotional and it left me being unable to get emotional myself, since somebody had to keep it together during adversities. After a while I got tired of being “the rock” while he was having meltdowns and was behaving like a hysterical woman. It basically left me unable to really get in touch with my own feminine side.

  3. 3

    Even if women do bring up issues, sometimes it makes no difference. A dear friend of mine is trapped in a loveless marriage (married for over 30 years). Her husband, even though the marriage is broken and has been for quite some time, won’t talk divorce. She is 57, he is 62. It comes down to him not wanting to be alone. They don’t share a bed any more, haven’t for quite some time. They still have sex on occasion, by him initiating, but then retire to their separate space. She hasn’t been in love with him for a very long time. She is now in counseling for herself trying to make peace with it and takes meds for depression. If she just up and left, her kids and family would side with him. So she stays because it’s too much to risk.

    1. 3.1
      Karmic Equation

      That’s sad, Sunflower.

      But if she won’t put herself first, who will?

      Sounds like she doesn’t want to be alone either and would rather put up with an unfulfilling marriage than to try to restart her life at 57. Particularly if she’s still having sex with him. She could say no. Maybe that would make HIM want to have a divorce, since presumably, she’s ok with having sex on his schedule. If I was that unhappy with my marriage/husband, I wouldn’t be having sex with him.

    2. 3.2

      That maybe or not maybe true. I know many men that are trapped in marriages. They know the risk of getting screwed over divorce is very risky. Losing half of everything a guy has worked for and alimony on top of that.

      1. 3.2.1

        Oh please spare us! Plenty of women are making their own money nowadays. Many households now rely on two incomes to make ends meet, most men want a wife that has a job, and the number of women who out earn their husbands are increasing. I’m not sure why you bring up the idea of men being trapped in marriage, when the OP was talking about her female friend who felt trapped in marriage and her husband not wanting to be alone and still wanting to sleep with her. I guess you MRA types have to bemoan your issues in every single post, despite it having NOTHING to do with the topic at hand.

        1. Isa

          The difference is in “feeling” trapped rather than having the system rigged against you. Any sane person looking at the way divorce/alimony/custody etc. is handled in the US would be horrified. The fact feminist in the US aren’t lobbying to change the laws to be more like Sweden or Iceland (i.e. truly egalitarian) rather proves to me that their aims aren’t equality under the law.

  4. 4
    Karmic Equation

    I missed a phrase after “…since presumably, she’s ok with having sex on his schedule…”

    I meant “…since presumably, she’s ok with having sex on his schedule, what is HIS incentive to divorce?”

    I also presume she’s still cooking and caring for the household in other ways, too. He’s getting all his needs met. He has NO incentive to change.

    Hopefully counseling will help her come to a decision…to be happy with what she has…or have the strength to move on. On a small level, she could just start doing only her own laundry, and only cooking for herself. Schedule girls night out with her single gfs. Pick up a new hobby that requires her to get out and socialize with other adults her age.

    But if she really wants out, she can find a way to get out. Others “siding with her husband” is a believable smoke-screen.

    1. 4.1

      You are assuming. Two of my friends both does most of the house work and other chores women don’t normally do. One of my friends does over 90% of the house work and then does gardening, lawn maintenance, etc.

      Also I the hubby is most likely to pay the bills.

      1. 4.1.1
        Karmic Equation


        I’m really sorry that you’ve had bad experiences with women. Just as Evan tells women to stop accepting the jerks, users, non-committers, MEN have to stop accepting the bitches, users, and emotionally unstable.

        Women accept those jerks, because — and I finally saw this clearly — woman place a higher value on “great sex” and most will put up with assholes as long as he can give her an orgasm. Which tells me women are more slaves to sex than men are, probably because great lovers are hard to come by (pun intended).

        While men are slaves to visual beauty. The more gorgeous she is, the more crazy he’s willing to tolerate.

        So if you’ve had ONLY bad experiences with women (and if your friends have also), then I would submit that you and your friends ALSO need to choose better. If she’s hot and she’s crazy, dump her. If she’s hot and she’s selfish, dump her. If she’s hot and prone to temper tantrums, dump her. Don’t commit to her or marry her because she’s sexually adventurous and is bitchy//selfish/crazy. While men are not slaves to orgasms as women are, because men can get off even with bad sex, men are slaves to beauty and or novelty. Novelty wears off. Beauty fades. When both are gone, what you are left with is what you gotta deal with.

        So don’t go blaming women for being sh*ts to you and your friends. Blame yourselves for choosing the wrong women to start with. Pick better and your relationship woes will go away.

        The sad part is that your current anger and resentment of women will virtually ensure that the only women who’ll find you attractive will be those who have issues.

        So, for you choosing the best of the crazies/bitchy/selfish, will still you with a woman who’s crazy/bitchy/selfish and thus confirming your world view.

        Break the cycle my friend. Seek therapy to cure yourself of the resentment and anger towards women. Only then will you find a good woman. As long as you have the world view you have on women, you’re doomed to living a life that confirms your world view of women.

        Which is quite sad, MikeTO. See the good in women and your world will change for the better.

  5. 5

    Karmic are u finally admitting that women use sex as an incentive/control to get what they want or need and saying that it is ok to do so lol

    1. 5.1
      Karmic Equation

      He’s refusing to fix the broken marriage. She’s being a “dutiful” wife at her own expense.

      If he’s withholding his emotional support of her, she’s entitled to withhold physical support for him.

      1. 5.1.1

        Men don’t get emotional support from women, I can assure from that. That’s the problem with marriages is that men aren’t allowed to talk without being attacked.

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          Mike, I really think you’re in the wrong place. Women provide SO much more emotional support than men, in general. If you’ve found women who don’t support you emotionally, then dump them and find someone else who is healthier – no need to trash an entire gender with something so blatantly silly as “men don’t get emotional support from women”.

        2. MikeTO

          @Evan it’s not trashing it’s a fact. You yourself generalized the manosphere. Same shit different pile. How about you practice what you preach yourself?

        3. pat

          I emotionally support my boyfriend. My mom emotionally supports my dad. I’m sorry that you have never experienced emotional support from a woman before and you’ve never witnessed your mom or step-mom emotionally support your dad. But just because you haven’t experienced it, doesn’t mean that millions don’t experience it or that it doesn’t exist (maybe your picker is broken). It’s sad that you’ve been brainwashed to hate women so much. You’re going to live a very empty, bitter, and lonely life if you keep that up.

  6. 6

    What a coincidence you decided to comment on Gottman, I am in the midst of reading Gottman’s book on Principles of Making A Marriage work. I think a big point Gottman brings up that is prediction of divorce in addition to Evan’s points if what Gottman calls failing to acknowlege your spouse’s bids. For example, if both are drinking coffee during breakfast and someone brings up a comment that goes unacknowledged by the other person that’s a bid fail. Spouses who are on the brink of divorce fail to turn towards and acknowledge the other spouse for these little things. But it’s these little moments that add up to strengthen a relationship and bring partners together.

  7. 7
    Karmic Equation

    I re-read the blog post and thought it was a great road map for relationship-ping — new word I’m coining a la Gottman’s “spouse’s bids” — If I coin more terms then maybe I should write a book? haha

    All kidding aside, I would summarize like this:

    1) We should refrain from doing any of the actions on the the list to ensure that we are not sabotaging our own relationships.

    2) We should break up with anyone who exhibits any of the behaviors on the list because those people don’t make good partners for us.

  8. 8

    i think Gottman is a guy with some compelling ideas to spread. He’s also a releltless self-promoter. Found this article about his research methodology:

    @KE7, I agree that we should try to refrain from the actions on the list but I know I’ve behaved badly in these ways on occasion, even in good relationships. If we break up with everyone who ever exhibits any one of those behaviours, I fear that we’ll all remain single. I’d suggest that we see these as red flags but not dump a person if he stonewalls or is defensive once or twice; none of us is perfect, after all.

    1. 8.1
      Karmic Equation

      Hi Henriette,

      I should have written we should break up with people who demonstrate a “pattern in any of these behaviors”, in a way that you notice and upsets you more than once.

      Maybe you’re a nicer person than me, Henriette. If a guy does any of those behaviors more than once in a way that I notice and am bothered by, it would only be a matter of time before I break up with him.

      Women need to be self-aware (as you have become, Henriette) and recognize that these four behaviors, in addition to clinginess and insecurity, are behaviors she needs to overcome to be happy with her life, independent of whether she’s in a relationship or not. And once she’s overcome them, she’ll have a much much better chance of having a good relationship…assuming she has a good picker 🙂 If she keeps picking men who treat her badly, it doesn’t matter how enlightened or secure she is. She’d going to be unhappy and/or create unhappiness in the relationship.

  9. 9

    Interesting that men are still “helping” with housework and childcare. Unless she’s a sahm, you’re both equally reponsible!

  10. 10

    I can’t say I disagree with any of this. Women bring up 80% of relationship issues, and it’s also women who initiate divorce in over two thirds of divorces.

    I tend to see a lot of ‘carrying on’, where women in particular will put on a brave face to family and friends and men just carry on regardless.

    What’s really sad is where you’re at a wedding where you know it probably won’t last, and what’s really, really sad is the amount of time that people waste.

  11. 11

    marymary: Excellent point. Goes right to the heart of the matter. Gender roles are rapidly changing and men are somewhat slow to get that. Probably because it means that they’re going to have to share responsibility for things that they’re clueless about. Women seem to be better at being good at man things than men are at doing women things. It’s really a shame. So much unnecessary upset. Just learn how to clean a toilet and do it, for heaven’s sake.

    1. 11.1

      Man things @simone…I dont see many high voltage female electrician or women working on construction sites, there are still alot of physical demanding jobs men do that women dont

      1. 11.1.1

        Well, enrollment in medical schools are now at 50% women, which was unheard of a few decades ago. Give women a few more decades and they will even out other fields, too!

      2. 11.1.2

        You have to realize that women didn’t even have the right to vote a hundred years ago. They have been treated as second class citizens for much of human history and only relatively recently were given access to higher education and entry into the work force. You can’t overturn history over night, but it will happen.

    2. 11.2

      To be perfectly honest, I don’t see the need to divide household tasks exactly equally. I’m perfectly happy cooking dinner (I enjoy it) and doing the laundry if he is ok fixing the computers and cleaning the pool.

      I think too big a deal is made out of men learning how to do traditional “women’s things” and women learning how to do traditional “men’s things” – why not ask what you’re good at and what you enjoy?

      1. 11.2.1

        Clare @ 11.2 I agree here. I think over all labor in a relationship should be done FAIRLY, but that doesn’t necessarily mean split EXACTLY even-Steven down the middle. And we all need to look at the ENTIRE picture, work that is done OUTSIDE of the house, as well as INSIDE the house. The woman who INSISTS that if she cooks the meal he MUST clean afterwards is not much better than the man who insists on going dutch treat from date one, and accounting down to the penny for every date and interaction thereafter. (But wouldn’t consider a no-cost or low cost first date, but would rather “shit-test” a woman by suggesting a pricey dinner just to see if she’ll cough up the money for her meal)

        Before anyone complains about what their SO contributes to the relationship, take a good look at what they DO, don’t look at what they DON’T DO. (and perhaps take a good look at what YOU don’t do)

        Perhaps the husband doesn’t lift a finger in the kitchen, but does ALL of the yard work. (yes he mows the lawn and trims the trees and doesn’t say “I did the lawn work YOU bag up the yard clippings and haul them to the trash can”.

        Perhaps the boyfriend picks up the check for dinner, and the girlfriend doesn’t even offer to leave the tip, BUT she makes him a nice dinner AND breakfast the next day, and doesn’t hand him her grocery receipt and say “Your half is $12 and the dishes don’t clean themselves buster”

        1. Clare


          Exactly. I think you’ve got to look at the big picture, instead of getting bent out of shape about the little things. In fact, as long as both partners are pulling their weight and the important stuff is getting done, I’d say you should let the rest go. I’ve played the wife who expected my husband to do all the “women’s work” stuff perfectly, and guess what it didn’t work. It just built up resentment on both sides.

          Now, I’m perfectly happy if a man is willing to pay a maid to do the intensive cleaning, and does the “manly” things like the heavy lifting, fixing stuff, yard work etc. I will happily do the rest. It seems to make men happier to stay in the zone of what they are good at too, I’ve observed.

        2. MikeTO

          More and more women can’t cook that well. There is a big difference between my step mom and sisters. Even one of my sister is a stay at home mom. Frankly I rather cook my own meal. Microwaving or buying frozen food doesn’t count as cooking btw.

        3. Clare


          Your hatred of women is so thinly veiled that I have to wonder if you even believe your own mutterings. For the life of me, I cannot understand why Evan allows blatant misogynists on the blog.

          Where is a single scrap of tangible proof to back up a single thing that you are saying?

      1. 11.3.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        And yet, the marriages where men help out with household chores and childrearing make for the happiest marriages. Looks like there’s a tradeoff between being a selfish neanderthal and sitting on your ass while your working wife fixes you dinner, and helping out because it’s the right thing to do.

        1. Karmic Equation

          It was interesting on how the conclusions of this study was worded:

          “While egalitarian marriages tended to be happier, men who did ‘feminine’ tasks had sex less often than those who shunned the iron and oven.”

          “In fact, men who divorced themselves from core chores, had sex one and a half times more a month than those who pulled their weight in the home.”

          If we believe that men want more sex than women, then these two conclusions are diametrically opposed are they not?

          Or are these conclusions in line with the saying “Happy wife, happy life”?

          Sounds like the latter.

          Just sayin’

  12. 12
    Karl S

    Contempt is such an interesting one because it can manifest in the most subtle ways.

    I dated a girl once who was a primary school teacher and if ever she wanted to point something out that I was doing wrong, she’d put on that sing-song teacher’s voice. Maybe she thought it was a way to soften the blow but all it really did was make me feel like I was 6 years old. The one time my best friend met her, he described her as “way condescending”. Eventually it became apparent that we were just not compatible, but I realize upon reflection that a big part of it might have come from the fact that she had that superior tone when we were troubleshooting problems.

  13. 13

    Spot on as per how men and women react to “emotional” challenges. Frankly, most of the female friend I have with “challenges” with their husbands would be far better to go take a walk and cool off than nag at them. That never has any effect as they immediately shit down/yell and walk out (depending on the man). This isn’t to say that men don’t need to change/share the blame, but, merely as a tactic, absolutely horrid.

  14. 14

    While i know that women are generally more emotional(ly supportive) than men , i receive zero emotional support from my wife. She’s far too much about herself to lend support to me. So there are not hard fast rules.

  15. 15

    my husband took off on a last minute vacation (which i had no idea he was going to do). he ended up meeting his dad for a motorcycle trip, but also had a week to himself. he returned home (i didn’t even get a souvenir) and invited me to go on a work trip with him that could double as a nice weekend in mendocino. he left me stranded in a remote (but lovely) room w/o transportation and no food or water all day even though he said he’d stop back in to go out to lunch. that night i insisted on getting some fruit for the next day and a bottle of water so i wouldn’t be stranded. he said we’d go out to breakfast but of course we didn’t. i’m glad i got the fruit. that week we returned home and had plans to have a nice, early grilled dinner together. i skipped a class i really enjoy to do this and of course he was over an hour late. i was already hungry so i ate without him. i just feel like such an afterthought. and in turn it makes me shut him out because i’m tired of feeling disappointed.

    1. 15.1

      Susan mentioned she feels like an afterthought. I have had this problem for years. For one, he is always late. I am never late.   And two, I am a planner, he is in the moment.   So if i plan something, he agrees but if he doesnt FEEL like it when the time comes, forget it.   OR if someone calls him to golf or meet for a drink, our plans are done.   Tonight for example, he was to pick pizza up for out son for dinner. We waited…and waited….We didnt know that he decided to pick it up and then met a friend for a drink.   Sure, he showed up with the pizza but after he was done his “in the moment” thing.   My son was starving, i was angry becuase he doesnt think about his son being hungry and me wondering  where he is. (he conveniently doesnt answer the cell)   I personally feel like there is no resolution.   He will always be late, and he will always do what he FEELS like.   I will always be angry because he commited and re-negged. It’s a hard way to live.

  16. 16
    Alisha Jayne

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    September 2, 2015

    There are so many people wondering this while it seems there are only a handful of people who claim to have the answer to this. But the reason I see missing so often from these explanations that is quite shameful, is that people simply forget the love.
    In a time where materialism and your friends’ list on Facebook runs high, the focus on your significant other is low. It looks like people just simply forget why they were in love in the first place with relationships taking a place on the back burner. Suddenly you’re more concerned about the kids, about work, about your friend’s unorganised bachelor party, about your mother-in-law’s weekly mandatory visits. And I’m not saying these things aren’t important because they are, especially your children.
    But what people forget is that they are living the life they’re living because of the one they loved enough to chain themselves to. Where you sleep, what you eat, why you like a certain ice-cream flavour, why you shudder when you walk past a particular bowling alley. It is because of them. You would not be the person you are today if not for them. Now I’m not sprouting some corny ‘they complete you’ speech, I’m simply telling you that the beginning of the relationship was important, maybe even more important than what the relationship is today. Because it was those moments in the beginning that brought you together.
    You forget those moments that you fell in love with them a little more each time and suddenly you forget what being in love feels like all together. And that’s when love fades. That’s when love leaves. And you’re just sitting at the dinner table with a person you don’t love anymore.
    So if you’re worried about your marriage, try this:
    -Recalling how you met
    -Smiling about that awkward thing they did when they first tried talking to you
    -Trying to remember what they were wearing which they’d never wear in public today
    -Reflecting on that first date
    -Trying to think of the moment that had you blushing bright red
    -Thinking about their first attempt at a birthday gift
    -Laughing at their weird hobby and how you tried so hard not to laugh when they told you about it that first time
    -Pinpointing all the things that attracted you to them
    -Remembering all the times you were caught staring at them
    Talk to each other. Turn it into a game. Laugh together and most importantly, fall in love with them all over again.

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