When trying to decide if I was going to marry my boyfriend years ago, I expressed some of my fears of marriage to a trusted mentor. I had seen enough friends who had divorced after a few years of marriage to have a healthy fear of it. My mentor said something that stuck.
"I'm glad you are nervous about marriage. I would be worried if you weren't nervous. Marriage is not something to fulfill you. It's a lot of work."
No one gets married planning for it to fail, but yet it happens all the time. Why? A study by psychologist John Gottman discovered there are certain behaviors that predict divorce with unnerving reliability. Gottman found that couples who wouldn't change these behaviors would inevitably end up divorced.
Check your marriage to keep these four behaviors from creeping into your relationship.
1. Couples who cut off (or avoid) arguments
There is a reason important conversations are referred to as uncomfortable topics. They make us uncomfortable! It's natural to not wantto have the conversations, but it's unhealthy to cut them off to keep them from happening - especially if it's while the discussion is taking place.
It's a bad sign if your spouse (or you) pulls out your phone anytime an intense conversation comes up or if he walks out at any hint of contention.
This behavior is called stonewalling. It is toxic for a relationship, because it prevents serious problems from being discussed and resolved. Couples who consistently stonewall each other won't last long.
2. Couples who feel like they're better than the other (this is the No. 1 predictor for divorce)
Gottman refers to this behavior (which he calls contempt) as the "kiss of death" for relationships. He was able to predict whether a couple would get divorced with 93 percent accuracy, and this was the number one indicator.
What this behavior looks like: If your husband accidentally washes a red shirt with your white load, how do you respond? Contempt is the attitude that your spouse is beneath you. If you find yourself wondering what kind of idiot would mess up a load of laundry, this is a scary indicator that contempt is leaking into your attitude.
3. Couples who consider quirks character flaws
Every spouse has annoying quirks. Some smack their mouth when they eat or leave their fingernail clippings on the bathroom counter. It's totally normal to be annoyed by it, but how you deal with it will make all the difference between a miserable marriage and one that's progressing.
What this behavior looks like: You see your husband's dirty socks rolled up in a ball on the bathroom floor for the umpteenth time. Your best option is to wait until he gets home and gently ask him to put his socks in the laundry. The toxic behavior is to turn that obnoxious habit into a character flaw by thinking something like, "Why do I want to be married to a guy who can't even clean up his socks?"
4. Couples who fail to accept that something might be their fault
Obviously, it's never fun to admit that you were wrong. But in all reality, there are times when you are going to mess up. If you can't ever take responsibility for your things that go wrong, you will probably find your fights escalating dangerously fast.
What this behavior looks like: You come home to a dinner your husband made for you an hour after you told him you'd arrive. He's clearly upset that you're late. Maybe your boss came in to talk to you last minute. Maybe you left later than you should have because you got caught up in some extra work. Instead of apologizing for keeping him waiting, you defensively whine about the traffic and your boss.