The #1 Predictor Of Divorce (Is Not What You Think)

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couple going through divorce

Did you know that the number one predictor of divorce is habitually avoiding conflict?

When we first get married, we often are still in the passionate, infatuation love stage. Later on — whether it be months or years — we find out that we don't always see eye-to-eye with our partner.

What we forget is that this is normal. In fact, the happiest married couples often have at least 10 areas of "disagreement" or incompatibility.

They are successful in their marriage because somewhere along the way they have been able to communicate openly about touchy or disagreeable topics, and they have been able to decide to disagree. 

And they also choose to not let these disagreements leech into other aspects of their relationship.

Success in any relationship, then, means we learn how we can respect the difference of opinion — and choose to love and carry on in the relationship anyway. 

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Where, when, and how to confront conflict

One of the most cited and proven ways to confront conflict is on neutral ground. This could mean a couple of different things.

For example, as an issue arises, choose a point in the near future to discuss it.

Maybe set it up like this: "Honey, on Saturday after we've both fit our workouts in, and we've eaten lunch as a family, while Junior is playing ball outside, can we sit on the back steps and talk about that issue we have?"

Here you identify there is a problem that needs to be discussed, and you are choosing to discuss it when your stress levels are low. You can handle the situation more rationally than emotionally.

You might also choose to set a regular time to discuss personal matters, family crises, financial issues, jobs, etc.

The point is to have a safe time and place where you both know in advance you can bring up any topics.

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Take an open-minded approach

Both of these examples allow partners to come to the table open-handed and hopefully, open-minded.

After all, the best way to keep your marriage or relationship healthy is to address issues before they become problems, fights, or major issues.

You may be wondering, okay, so I need to identify potential situations that may escalate before they happen.

Well, if you are listening to your self-talk, and have a feeling that your partner may disagree or become upset, then that's an indicator not to bring the topic up in the heat of the moment when he or she walks into the room.

How do you stop yourself from engaging and rearing up for a heated conversation while you're asking your partner for a "date" to discuss an issue?

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Here are six steps to take to prepare for a calm, rational discussion about marital conflict: 

1. Listen to your inner dialogue

If you have any type of uneasy feeling about your partner's reaction, or if you know you feel strongly about the topic. Remember to breathe and, if you're in a place where it's practical, sit down next to your partner.

2. Think through the situation

Identify your feelings, what you'd like the outcome to be, and how you see yourself and your partner coming to a compromise or decision to respectfully disagree. Then, sit down and discuss it.

3. Decide how you'll compromise 

If you are unable to resolve the issue or come to an agreement, then choose how you will compromise or decide on another time to come back and discuss the same topic.

4. Hug or hold hands while you talk

Why? This issue is exactly that — just an issue — and in no way affects the rest of your complex relationship.

You've chosen to love each other through thick and thin. Don't forget to show that.

5. Pick a 'safe' word to calm emotions

Your personal buzzword could be as simple as "humility" or "love." 

Basically, you want to recite something in your head, or better yet say it out loud repeatedly until you're in control of your emotions. Note: It is OK to use the same word or phrase or poem repeatedly.

6. Do a math puzzle together

Wait, what? Yup, do some kind of math problem.

That's right. In the heat of the moment, if you are ready to pop you are not in the decision-making area of your brain, you're in your reptile brain.

In order to get to the higher executive functions, you have to engage your frontal lobe.

How? By doing some kind of math or logic problem. This takes you from the emotional area of your brain straight to your rational area.

And that is the only area where conflict can truly be managed, rather than escalated.

RELATED: 5 Unsexy Things People With The Happiest Marriages Do When They Fight

Lyndsay Katauskas is a personal coach who specializes in relationships, divorce, grief, and trauma.

This article was originally published at Lifetime Two Love. Reprinted with permission from the author.