Don't ignore them.
Marriage is tough, so it's hard to really evaluate whether or not your relationship could be heading toward divorce. In the beginning, you might find yourself freaking out after every disagreement or argument, with the false 50 percent divorce statistic lingering at the back of your mind.
However, one psychologist was hoping to find out if there were any common patterns that may serve as red flags for married couples to watch out for. Luckily, he found that there are actually two major signs that indicate a marriage could be heading for divorce.
He also assured married couples that they shouldn't be too worried, unless they're both doing two things: being stuck in a negative cycle and not resolving their disagreements.
But, how do you know whether you're just freaking out over nothing, or if you're truly in trouble? Gottman explains the crucial differences below.
1. Getting stuck in a cycle of negativity can spell major trouble for married couples.
"Early divorce is predicted by partners who get stuck in a negative cycle and aren't able to repair the relationship," explains Gottman. "For these couples, entering negativity is like stepping into a quicksand bog. It's easy to enter but hard to exit. You see that their repair processes — [the techniques they use to makeup after a conflict] — are failing."
He went on to say, "That’s what leads to early divorce: this negativity becomes all-encompassing. They check in but they don't check out. It's like the roach hotel model. There's a rapid deterioration of intimacy and friendship where they become one another's adversary instead of one another's friends."
Once you start associating your spouse with more negative feelings than positive ones, that's when you should start to worry. Your spouse should be your partner, lover, and friend; negativity could irreversibly break those bonds.
Gottman says that a marriage with this pattern will never last long. It will typically end in an early divorce, usually only a few years after the couple gets married.
2. If you never resolve your disagreements and always agree to disagree, divorce is highly probable.
You might think a good way to settle an argument is to agree to disagree, but Gottman says that while this might seem well-meaning, it's actually very harmful. He also explained that, unlike the first pattern, this one can go on for years and eventually result in an exhausting and long-lasting divorce.
He stated, "With couples who divorce later, this results from people agreeing to disagree... withdrawing from conflict. They can stay together longer, but then around midlife they start having this realization that their life is very empty. They're kind of like those couples that come in at dinner and don't talk to each other the entire time. We call them hostile detached couples. They can last a long time.
In these cases, the couples generally last about 16 years after the wedding. Quite often by the time they end up divorcing they have teenage children. Especially when they have teenagers, they wind up thinking things like, 'Boy when I was that age I had a lot of hope, and now I've wound up in this sort of empty marriage.' So they wind up identifying with their adolescent and exiting the relationship. Oftentimes there's also an affair. And that's what ends the relationship."
Gottman's advice is crystal clear: don't be passive. Talk it out with each other until you come to a good resolution. In doing this, you won't have to go over it again and again, and you'll make your marital bond even stronger.
It sounds like pretty solid advice to us. After all, communication is extremely important in all relationships. If you aren't communicating properly, or not at all, then you're ultimately setting up your marriage for failure.
Nicole Weaver is a love and entertainment writer.
Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on June 19, 2015 and was updated with the latest information.