Indicators of Divorce

Colleen Sheehy Orme

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In the Psychology Today article, All You Need Is Respect Sam Louie, MA, LMHC explains respect is critical for successful relationships.

"From my work as a therapist but also having been in relationships myself, I know that lack of respect can be the death knell in any romantic relationship. Noted relationship researcher John Gottman describes the problem in a number of his books. But instead of designating it "respect," he itemizes disrespect as the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (stonewalling, defensiveness, criticism, and contempt)."

Interestingly, the researcher, Dr. John Gottman (mentioned above) discovered contempt is one of the leading indicators of divorce.

"One of the four areas that I want to highlight is that of contempt. A pattern of displaying contempt by one partner towards their other most fits the general description of lack of respect. In contempt, one partner belittles the other partner by mocking them, tearing them down with name-calling or sarcasm."
"Contempt can be verbalized or expressed via body language (e.g. rolling of the eyes). In his research, Dr. Gottman has been able to predict with 90% accuracy which relationships will lead to divorce after watching couples argue; contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce!"

In the article, Louie explains, "Expressions of contempt include: Mocking, speaking with sarcasm, using hostile humor, name-calling, mimicking, eye-rolling, sneering or smirking."

As a relationship columnist with more than a decade dedicated to the research and counseling of marriage, divorce, and extreme personalities, Louie's article is one of the best I've read. And the research of Dr. Gottman some of the most interesting. It speaks to the core of what I am most passionate about.

Love can get you far, respect can get your further.

A relationship can be rooted in love but disrespectfulness will eventually erode it. It creates frustration, resentment, arguments, and anger. It becomes a never-ending cycle because it's difficult to reach a spouse who is communicating disrespectfully.

An individual who lacks respect can't hear you. I always say they can't hear you because they've already decided you are wrong and they are intent on proving it.

In the article, Louie states it this way:

"With contempt, a partner takes a position of moral superiority over the other and communicates it to the other. The receiver is more than discouraged. He or she is disparaged, humiliated, and made to feel worthless."

In simple terms, when you respect someone you don't feel the need to mock them or disprove who they are. You allow them to be themselves. You may disagree with certain behaviors but you have the ability to compromise while not disparaging who they are.

As a relationship writer, I have coined several tenets. One I repeat often is, "Respect sends one message. I love you. Disrespectfulness sends two messages. I love you but I don't like you.

This is consistent with Louie's description of Dr. Gottman's research:

"Expressions of contempt include: Mocking, speaking with sarcasm, using hostile humor, name-calling, mimicking, eye-rolling, sneering or smirking."

All of the above are consistent with, "I love you but I don't like you."

Sadly, respect or the lack of it, is a communication style we learn. It's hard to overcome because an individual needs to abandon their ego long enough to recognize their own behavior. But the ego is over-sized and immature in disrespectful communicators making it more difficult to believe they are at fault.

Even if one spouse is respectful they can digress while exchanging words with a partner who lacks respect. The need to be heard and acknowledge can escalate discussions and eventually end in name-calling, yelling, and general ugliness. Where even the individual who is typically respectful is now lacking it.

Couples owe it to themselves to invest in counseling to improve respect and communication. Reading is an excellent supplement. However, it's difficult to see our own behavior, making a third party therapist beneficial.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a National Relationship Columnist, freelance journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, relationships, and self-restoration. She has spent more than a decade in research and counseling on the topics of divorce, relationships, and Narcissistic personality disorder.

Reston, VA
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