If you happened to be sat next to a man named John Gottman in a restaurant, he could tell with astounding accuracy whether your relationship would last long term – just by how your conversation unfolded.
And all before you even received your menus.
A six-year landmark study, published in 1998, found that the first three minutes of an argument can predict the compatibility of a couple.
The study asked couples to sit down for 15 minutes and discuss a disagreement.
If, in the first few minutes, there is even a hint of contempt, Gottman posited that the relationship was doomed. And, according to the study, he was accurate 83 per cent of the time.
He identified four kinds of negativity that destroy relationships, termed ‘The Four Horsemen’.
They are: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling (withdrawing and shutting down).
“The biggest lesson to be learned from this study,” he said, “is that the way couples begin a discussion about a problem — how you present an issue and how your partner responds to you — is absolutely critical.”