March 30, 2000
Sweet nothings help marriages stick

By Karen S. Peterson, USA TODAY 

How newlyweds talk to each other, more than what they actually
say, can predict which couples will divorce with 87% accuracy, new 
government-sponsored research says. 

The results of the 10-year study from the University of Washington, 
Seattle, add to the growing body of research sponsored by the National 
Institute of Mental Health that seeks to identify what saves marriages. 

Interviewed within six months of marriage, couples who will endure 
already see each other "through rose-colored glasses," study co-author 
Sybil Carrere says. "Their behavior toward each other is positive." Those 
who will divorce already see each other "through fogged lenses," seeming 
cynical and unable to say good things about each other. 

Researchers followed 95 couples in the Seattle area for seven to nine 
years, beginning six months into their marriages. The initial hour-long 
interview together probed their relationship, their parents' union and 
their philosophy of marriage.

More than what was actually said, researchers logged "if they expressed
fondness and admiration for their partner, if they talked about 
themselves as a unit, if they finished each other's sentences, referenced 
each other when they told a story, and whether what came to mind was 
pleasant," Carrere says. 

Strong patterns emerged that suggested divorce later: 16 couples have 
split in the study so far. UW psychology professor John Gottman 
co-authored this marriage study and many others. He has found that key 
predictors of divorce include a husband's unwillingness to be influenced 
by his wife, who is often the one trying to solve marital problems; and 
the wife starting quarrels "harshly" and with hostility. Those tend to 
escalate into bigger conflicts

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