Researchers have been asking the question for decades: what causes divorce, and how can we prevent relationship breakups? Even more baffling, why do marriages that involve initially happy couples break up many years down the road? Now, two new studies show that the long-term predictors of divorce may have less to do with compatibility and more to do with communication.
The first divorce study was conducted by the University of Denver and followed 126 couples through marriage. It focused on life satisfaction before and throughout marriage – and whether a person’s level of life satisfaction affected or predicted a couple’s chances of divorce. The second study was conducted by UCLA. This study followed 136 couples over a ten-year period and examined the risk factors for divorce in early marriage.
Here are three long-term predictors of divorce that the studies discovered:
- A lack of communication. Couples who divorced often used blame and invalidation when they communicated, while successful couples were more open and affirming. Even couples with drastically different opinions stayed together as long as they communicated well and supported each other.
- The presence of discouraging and aggressive behavior. Couples that eventually divorced often discouraged their spouses from expressing their feelings or showed aggression during arguments early in their marriage.
- Pessimism. Perhaps in the most interesting finding, researchers found that pessimism can lead to bad marriages, and bad marriages can increase pessimism. Inappropriate pessimism was a predictor of divorce, both when it came to how a person felt about small arguments and how a person felt about their overall happiness in life.
How can we use this information to improve our own relationships and understand divorce? While both studies focused on correlation and not causation, we can still take home an important lesson about positivity and communication – both for our romantic relationships and for our overall outlook on life.
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