A researcher and marriage counselor, John Gottman, has identified contempt, criticism, stonewalling and defensiveness as elements in a marriage that make it more likely to end in divorce. Of the four, contempt is the most destructive because shows a lack of respect between partners. When couples in Michigan engage in any of these behaviors, divorce could be in their future.

An example of contempt would be if one person felt the other person’s remarks suggested that person was dumb or worthless. When one person brings this up to the other person, the other person might state that this is the truth or might simply not care. At this point, contempt has set in.

However, even a marriage that has these elements can sometimes be saved. The key is whether the couple can work together to reverse the damage and stop indulging in the same behaviors. Gottman suggests having people talk about when they first met and what each first admired about the other. This helps the couple revive affection and respect for one another, and they can then start working together to fix the problems in their relationship. For many couples, there is still the kernel of a friendship remaining that can be developed again into a loving relationship.

However, this is not always the case, and one of the spouses might file for divorce as a result. The couple may then have to negotiate the terms, and this can include property division and making a decision about child custody. The couple could also go to litigation where a judge would decide, but they would have less input into the final outcome. Even if the couple’s communication has broken down because of contempt or other issues, they might still be able to reach a resolution using mediation. In any of these situations, each party should have separate legal counsel.