Marital Research Findings: John Gottman

Marital Research Findings: John Gottman There is one man acknowledged by most academics to be the world's leading researcher in marital relationships: Dr John Gottman from the University of Washington. Gottman has been researching couples in his "love laboratory" for decades, as is often quoted in Ensign articles and by many LDS professors, even though he is not LDS. Therefore, his research findings by and large can be respected as helpful, useful, and applicable to most couples, most of the time. John Gottman has many useful findings, but for purposes of this little article, I would like to review a few of his more important findings helpful to those dating and looking to marry (or remarry) in the online dating world.

Finding 1: The Main Factor Predictive of Divorce--Negative Interactions: Often times, communication problems and issues are assumed to be the main predictor of divorce. However, Gottman found that all 3 communication styles--avoidant (or "passive"), validating (or "assertive"), and volatile (or "aggressive")--could possibly be associated with marital success or failure. What he found more predictive of divorce was positive versus negative interactions. More specifically, he found that couples who had a ratio of 5 or more positive interactions for every one negative interaction were found to stay together and be more satisfied in their marriages. Conversely, those with a ratio of less than 5 positive interactions was a finding predictive of marital dissatisfaction and eventual divorce. The main implication for you and your future relationship: keep interactions positive. Be aware. Track it. Work at it like your future marriage depends on it, because it will.

Finding 2: Certain Negative Marital Interaction Can Spell Eventual Doom: The 4 Horsemen. The main negative interactions that hurt the positive/negative interaction ratio and threaten eventual divorce is a combination of 4 particular negatives Gottman calls "The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse": Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling. Criticism is a particularly dangerous type of complaint that adds a personal attack component to it, such as name calling, threats, or exaggerations. Responses to this criticism often involve additional toxic negatives by either spouse including defensiveness (arguments, counterattacks, blame), contempt (resentment, bitterness, grudges), and stonewalling (withdrawal, cold shoulder, avoidance). The main implication for you and your future relationship: if you feel a negative issue is important to bring up, keep your complaint as respectful and civil as possible. Stick to the specific subject and avoid person attacks on the other's character.

Finding 3: Flooding is Dangerous, So Stop It: "Flooding" is basically overwhelming a spouse with a literal flood of excessive negative lecturing, accusations, put downs, threats, yelling, and so on. Often, flooding involves switching the subject, bringing up the past, saying phrases like "and another thing…", "while we're at it…", "plus, what about the time that you…". So much negativity often occurs in a flooding episode that the other spouse is extremely stunned and overwhelmed so that whatever started the original argument is forgotten, and all that is remembered instead is being yelled at and lectured to. The results and ramifications? Defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. Very dangerous to a marriage. The main implication for you and your future relationship: bring up negative subjects that are important to you and you desire resolution with in a civil, respectful manner. Keep it specific, stick to the subject, keep it brief, allow for back and forth discussion, and control your tone of voice, body language, and facial expression. Remember, when you flood, you are always causing more damage than anything productive.

If you would like to learn more about the findings and writings of John Gottman, his main website is: Resources listed on this site for couples (and individuals learning more about relationships) include workshops, books, videos, and other information. Other additional available resources from John Gottman can be found on Amazon at: At the time of writing this article, there were 355 resources available for purchase on for John Gottman. His three most popular marriage books are: Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, and The Relationship Cure. If you are serious about learning about the works of John Gottman, those are the top books to read.

Learn about marriage. Give yourself every advantage going into it someday. Because "…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:11).

Best wishes,

Dr. G

2016-02-28 Randy Gilchrist Healthy relationships, Marriage preparation, Communication

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About the author

Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (, practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at; email me questions to