Marriage is different for everyone in Texas, and what works for one couple might not for another. One thing that many marriages do have in common are the reasons for filing for divorce. According to a psychologist who, starting in 1992, studied the stability of relationships and marriages, there are four behaviors that indicate whether a marriage will end in divorce within six years.
Being critical of a spouse is giving a negative opinion for not meeting an expectation. Calling a spouse an unkind name in response to something minor, such as misplacing his or her car keys, is one example. Criticism replaces the opportunity for connecting emotionally with verbal and emotional attacks.
How a person responds to criticism can also be problematic if he or she becomes defensive. Defensive behavior is when someone responds to criticism from his or her partner with criticism. While it might feel satisfying in the moment, it removes any sense of personal responsibility and focuses more on problems than solutions.
Stonewalling is another reaction to criticism that can predict divorce. When criticized by their partners, some people feel completely overwhelmed emotionally and choose to completely withdraw from the situation, shutting down the conversation. It can be helpful to momentarily step away to compose oneself before responding, but stonewalling prevents any type of communication. Building conflict resolution is impossible if one or both partners is unwilling to communicate.
Contempt is the most serious behavior of all and the one most likely to indicate that a divorce is in the future. Contempt is when one partner feels as if he or she has moral superiority and uses that sense of superiority to attack a spouse’s character. Contempt starts with a criticism, but instead of stopping at the negative opinion, a person goes on to assert him- or herself as an expert. For example, calling a spouse a name for misplacing car keys, and then adding that the spouse is exactly like his or her parent.
Texas couples can and do work through these kinds of behaviors, but for many, it is simply too much to overcome. For these couples, divorce is often the most appropriate solution. However, if these behaviors were a problem during marriage, they can also cause problems during divorce. Speaking with an experienced attorney could help some people craft strategies for dealing with this.