Therapy That Works...

What's Love Got To Do With It? - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

October 28, 2009 

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, TXA 21 News

With a fifty percent divorce rate, millions of Americans experience the agony of divorce each year. Dr. Sylvia Gearing discusses the top risk factors of breaking up, the secrets to staying together and what you can do tonight to make your relationship better.

Here are the latest findings on factors that lead to divorce:

A new study reveals the following risk factors:

Difference in Age: Age differences between the partners are linked to marital instability. Couples in which the husband is two or more years younger than the wife are 53% more likely to break up. Husbands nine or more years older are twice as likely to separate.

Disagreement About Having Children: When the wife has a much stronger preference for having a child than the husband, there is twice the risk of separation.

Women Tolerate Misery: There are distinct gender differences in tolerating misery. Women who are in difficult marriages tend to adapt to their husband’s negativity. In happy marriages, women initiate conversation to solve the problem. In contrast, men compartmentalize their angst until they are overwhelmed with it. Once they are aware of their unhappiness, they often leave the relationship.

Here’s how this new research compares to findings you already know about:

These findings are purely correlations and don’t explain the basic relationship patterns of breaking up. There are two major keys to staying together happily in a relationship.

Repairing the Argument: If you cannot make up, agree to disagree, or change direction in real time, your relationship will eventually fold. If you get overwhelmed and fall into the Distance Isolation Cascade, your marriage is seriously threatened and your affection, no matter how great, will begin to erode.

Avoiding Distance- Isolation Cascade: Pulling out of a fight through repairing the conflict and avoiding the Distance-Isolation Cascade are pivotal skills.

Here are the progressive steps partners experience as the conflict progresses:

Flooding: When an emotion becomes so overwhelming it takes over the emotional world of the person and the individual floods with anxiety and anger. If you cannot calm and soothe yourself and your partner, you cannot solve the problem at hand.

Viewing Problems as Severe and Permanent: Viewing the problems in the marriage as unsolvable and never ending is a hallmark of impending breaking up.

Decision to Work Problems Out Alone: Detachment is the final step in leaving a relationship. Eighty percent of divorced partners attribute the divorce to growing apart.

Parallel Lives: Building a social infrastructure outside the marriage gives the person a place to land after breaking up.

Loneliness: There is nothing lonelier in the world than remaining in a relationship when it is over. This outcome is especially difficult for women who are more willing to tolerate misery for a longer period of time.

Everybody wants to know the secrets of staying happily married. Although there’s no magic wand, here are my best tips for keeping your marriage magical:

Accepting Influence: Although this marital skill is difficult to master, it is a key to making love last and building confidence in the relationship. Allowing your spouse to influence your opinion by finding the common ground, the common strategy and the compromise that always exists are important in de-escalating conflict.

Gridlock: Sixty nine percent of issues are perpetual and are never solved. Masterful couples pull together to converse capably and respectfully around issues they disagree upon. Common ground and a shared solution are then possible.

Overlooking the Negative: When marriages are new, we are all accepting and reinforcing of our partners. After 15 years, rates of satisfaction, adoration, shared activities decline precipitously in couples that divorce. In happy marriages that last, the couples show the reverse patterns. Increasing companionship, higher rates of satisfaction and adoration are all typical.

But if you want immediate results, try these strategies tonight:

There are two powerful antidotes to negativity that work every time:

The Magic of Positive Emotions: Use positive emotions, words and behaviors to love your partner through conflict. Great couples use positive emotion judiciously in de-escalating disagreements. Kind words, a smile and humor all soothe the accelerating heart and calm the angry and resentful mind.

Thirty Seconds a Day: According to marital research, just thirty seconds of positive emotion a day can change the direction of a love affair. “Thirty seconds of positivity a day amounts to 100 positive words a day: multiplied by 365 days a year, this comes to 36, 500 words –enough to fill a book of poetry.” John Gottman, Ph.D.

For more information about Dr. Sylvia, please visit!


The Marriage Clinic, John Gottman, Ph.D.

What’s Love Got to Do With It? Dr. Rebecca Kippen, Professor Bruce Chapman, Dr. Peng Yu

Recent Posts