Divorce is complicated, and when you talk to someone going through one you learn that there are many issues that lead to a divorce. One of the simplest, most effective behaviors to cause a divorce is contempt. Couples who don't respect each other have been given a chance to improve with a digital gaming platform called, "Happify," which allows you to train your brain to become happy. The team responsible for studying and helping to write the program for the "Science of a Happy Relationship" is based on neuroscientists and psychologists. The program can predict with high accuracy whether or not couples have what it takes to achieve long-term happiness. One small predictor was found to be the main problem, and that predictor is contempt, demonstrated by eye rolling or looking up when your partner is talking.
According to Dr. John Gottman, the co-founder of the Relationship Research Institute and lead researcher of the landmark study about divorce, eye rolling, defensiveness and stonewalling can all lead into a divorce. It was the single worst, most humiliating act a partner could do when their partner was talking, and it leads to distancing in the relationship.
This isn’t all that surprising when you consider that in every country the number one predictor for a happy marriage is mutual respect for one another. Eye rolling is a sarcastic, nonverbal, passive-aggressive gesture, but it never clearly states the person’s disagreement. Therefore, the partner doesn’t know how to respond. Below are feelings behind the unspoken contempt.
Eye rollers mean this when they roll:
- They disagree with who is talking.
- They don’t like how the person talking is saying something.
- They are frustrated or overwhelmed with what is being said.
- They don’t respect the person talking.
What the person feels from the eye roller:
- Insulted, looked down at.
- Not respected.
The eye roller can damage many relationships, especially a marriage. When partners roll their eyes at each other, it is seen more as a deliberate way of showing lack of respect or arrogance. It is perceived as abusive and distances the partners. Withdrawal of the other partner is common, and the marriage will eventually crumble due to the lack of healthy communication. Below are suggestions of what you can do if you live with an eye roller or if you are an eye roller.
- Talk about the behavior at a time when it is not apparent and you are feeling close to your partner. Tell them how this behavior makes you feel and stick to “I statements.” An example is, “I know you love me, but when you roll your eyes after I say something, I feel like you are slapping me.”
- If you are the eye roller, come up with a new behavior that won’t offend your spouse. Sometimes taking a deep breath and looking away can do the trick.
- Be more open with how you feel verbally. Screaming or yelling is preferred to eye rolling in marital research, although both signs show an ineffective way of dealing with anger.
- The emotion behind eye rolling is usually anger, disdain or contempt. When you see it, make note of it and ask your partner what they are feeling right now. Better to get it on the table than shut down and ignore it, especially if all that contempt is directed toward you.
We all communicate with our eyes, our mouths and our bodies. Just as we show incredible love through our gestures, we can also hurt someone with gestures. Eye rolling is one of those gestures that can cut to the core. Replacing it with a more loving response may begin to heal your marriage in a way that years of couples' therapy could not. –Mary Jo Rapini
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