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Frequently, couples assume that misunderstandings are at the root of their conflicts."If my spouse really understood why I act as I do, he or she would agree with me and go along with what I want", is a commonly overheard refrain.Basically compatible partners may demonstrate a whole lot of conflict, but they don't often become contemptuous and angry with their partners, because there are by definition few things that they will disagree upon.In contrast, partners who start out with incompatible goals, values or dreams are far more likely to get into seemingly irresolvable conflicts.

Rather than face the pain and overwhelm they expect to experience, partners who have reached this third 'defensive' stage, may progress to the fourth and final stage of breakdown, characterized by a breakdown of basic trust between the partners, and increasing disengagement in the name of self-protection.In a famous study, Gottman was able to predict with over 80% accuracy the future divorces of multiple couples he and his team observed based on subtle body language cues suggesting contemptuous feelings (such as dismissive eye-rolling).Contempt doesn't have to be expressed openly for it to be hard at work rotting the foundations of one's relationship.Unfortunately, there is no way to love your partner when you are hiding behind a wall to protect yourself from him or her.The "four horsemen" breakdown sequence plays out amongst the backdrop of partner compatibility.

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