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Gauging divorce risk? Watch for spousal eye rolling

Unlike death and taxes, marriage and divorce are not sure things in life. At the same time, the nature of relationships is such that, in most cases, divorce rarely comes as a surprise. There are typically a lot of indicators.

If divorce does wind up coming as a surprise, the question then may be whether or not signals were missed or ignored. In either of those two cases, many experts likely would agree that the root issue may be that the divorcing couple suffered from a lack of communication.

One thing about divorce is certain. It is complicated. 

Even uncontested divorce has a way of becoming salted with conflict and emotion. Working with an attorney is always advised to deal with the circumstances that are unique to your situation.

Getting back to the matter of communication, it may be useful for the reader to recognize that there are a lot of different ways of communicating.

According to one relationship science expert, verbal expression and active listening, are the elements that make for the most productive communication. But there is also body language, one form of which is particularly good at predicting whether a couple stands a chance of enjoying long-term happiness. That one form is the eye roll.

Dr. John Gottman of the Relationship Research Institute says he has found that one spouse’s eye rolling when the other spouse is speaking is the biggest tell of any that a couple is likely to divorce. He says the eye roll is the most humiliating action one person can take against their partner.

Gottman says eye rolling is rooted in the emotions of anger, contempt or disdain. When a person uses this non-verbal cue, what he or she conveys is that they don’t respect the other person. And the message received by the speaker is one of abasement and insult.

Rather than letting eye rolls get the better of a relationship, Gottman recommends relying on verbal communication. If your eye rolling partner’s behavior hurts you, say so. If you happen to be the roller, find a way to verbalize your feelings.

He says his research suggests that even screaming, as ineffective as that tends to be, is a better way to address the issues that underlie the eye roll.

Source: KRIV-TV, “Contempt the top predicting factor in divorces,” Mary Jo Rapini, March 27, 2014