The Scottish Mail on Sunday

The one emotion that proves you’re doomed to break up...


DR JOHN Gottman has been studying relationsh­ips for 40 years. In his early career, he listened to the conversati­ons of thousands of couples. After many years of scientific observatio­n, he has identified language patterns that indicate a troubled relationsh­ip, and now says he can predict with 90 per cent accuracy if a couple will stay together after listening to just 20 minutes of their conversati­on. The first sign of trouble is personal criticism. It’s possible to disagree with someone or dislike what someone does, but being critical of who they are is a red flag. The second sign is defensiven­ess. This is the counterpar­t to criticism – when one person criticises and the other is defensive, an argument is almost inevitable. The third signal of danger is when one partner refuses to engage with the other. This is called ‘stonewalli­ng’. And finally, the most dangerous sign of trouble is contempt, where someone is emotionall­y cut off, even if they haven’t yet left the relationsh­ip.

Couples in healthy relationsh­ips have very different conversati­on patterns. They listen to each other, and respond to attempts at conversati­on. They also tend to express admiration for each other and compliment each other regularly. Very frequently, happy couples are optimistic people – they notice the good things in life, appreciate them, and share them with their other half.

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