Drift and Divorce

couple in tampa florida discussing divorce

Are you concerned your relationship is heading towards divorce?

Many people believe the dissolution of a relationship is due to a major event such as an affair. While these kinds of events can lead to the termination of a relationship, a major cause of divorce is emotional distance or a gradual drift apart.

This drift occurs due to lack of intimacy and when attention is not given to continuing to develop friendship.

couple working on accepting influence from each other in tampa florida

Dr. John Gottman has received much attention for being known to be able to predict divorce with over 90% accuracy. He, along with his wife, have written many books about their years of research and train therapists on working with couples. According to Drs. John and Julie Gottman, there are 8 predictors of divorce:

1. More negativity than positivity – Outside of conflict, couples who are more “functional” generally have a 20:1 ratio of positive interactions to negative ones. This does not mean you can’t have negative emotion or should not have conflict, as all emotions have value, it just needs to be outweighed with positivity. When satisfied couples are in conflict, their positive to negative ratio tends to be around 5:1.

Does it feel like your relationship is in a negative spiral or the negativity is outweighing the positive? Therapy can help to change the dance you’re stuck in and start a new path for your relationship.

2. The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse – Dysfunctional relationships tend to display a pattern of negativity in conflict by displaying criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. Gottman has determined contempt to probably be the biggest predictor of divorce. Couples who are better at accepting influence from each other, making effective repairs, deescalating and compromising tend to fair better when having an argument.

Couples can work in therapy on instead implementing a gentle start up, taking responsibility, building a culture of appreciation, and learning to self soothe to calm down.

3. Emotional Withdrawal – Relationships where a partner is disengaging or not displaying any interest in their spouse is a red flag. One thing that can help with this drift is turning towards versus turning away or against your partner. Couples often make bids, or attempts at connecting, and responding to your partners bids are critical to the relationship.

couple res[pnding to bids after making repair attempts in tampa, floridaTherapy can provide support to your partner in:

1) identifying when you are making bids and 2) allowing your partner to learn your attempts at connecting so they can respond in the way you so desperately desire.

Therapy will also assist you in:

1) recognizing bids from your partner and 2) responding in a way that helps to meet their needs, as well.

4. The failure of repair attempts – Gottman has shared this can be the most important difference between the “masters” and “disasters” of relationships. The goal of therapy is not to prevent fights or arguments, but to process hurt feelings and miscommunication, and be able to repair the relationship when there has been a hurt.

Therapy is a place where couples learn repair attempts that are already being made but not recognized and can also be a place to learn new ways to make repairs in order to increase positivity in the relationship.

5. Negative Sentiment Override – In happy couples, partners have a tendency to minimize or justify negative traits. However when negative sentiment override is present, anything the partner does or says is viewed with a negative lens, even if what the partner is doing is something positive or neutral. This occurs when a negative perception of the partner serves as the subtext defining all interactions regardless if they are positive or negative.

Does it ever feel like your partner more of an adversary than a friend?couple working on repair attempts and increasing positivity in relationship in tampa florida

In therapy, we address this by working on techniques that assist in enhancing the friendship.

6. Feeling “Flooded” and Maintaining Vigilance – One predictor of divorce is when partners become physiologically aroused or overwhelmed by their partner, creating a desire to flee or become more aggressive.

Partners are in a state where they sense danger possibly without experiencing a threat.

Rehearsing distress maintaining thoughts can prolong the physiological reaction and establish longer term vigilance as it relates to their partner even when conflict is not present.

Counseling assists in learning ways to calm your body in order to manage this ongoing physical response towards your partner.

7. Chronic Diffuse Physiological ArousalDo you notice sweaty hands, a red face or your heart racing during an argument? Physiological arousal while in conflict can impact one’s ability to take in or comprehend information. It leads to an increase in defensiveness, difficulty problem solving, and challenges in one’s ability to listen and empathize.

Therapy assists in working on techniques to allow you to both feel heard and understood, while also allowing your partner to feel the same way.

8. The failure of accepting influence – According to Gottman, men’s emotional withdrawal or disengagement from their wives in a heterosexual relationship (which often sad about relationship in tampa floridaleads to mutual disengagement) can be a predictor of divorce. This looks like patterns of increased control along with increased negativity characterized by contempt, domineering, defensiveness or belligerence in response to something as simple as complaining.

Guys are so critical to the success of a relationship!

Therapy can be a place for you to process safe options and potential next steps for your family depending on the level of commitment in the relationship.

I’m nervous because I relate to all these things!

Many couples do. The good news is: areas of particular concern can be specifically addressed in a counseling or a workshop setting. I would encourage you not to wait, because relationships are more likely to receive benefit from therapy when there is commitment in the relationship.

So do not wait until things get so bad that one partner already has their foot out the door!

Are you already considering divorce?

Thrive Therapy in Tampa, FL can help be a place to process your next steps and assist your family with this life transition.


couple making up after learning to manage conflict at thrive therapy in tampa florida


To learn more about the Gottman Method, click here.

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  1. […] who are drowning in stress who do not talk about it with each other tend to see their emotional attraction to each other fade, and subsequently experience suffering IN the relationship unnecessarily due to these outside […]

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