Most people’s ideal relationship includes having respect, unconditional acceptance, equality, honesty, and love. The list goes on. Oftentimes, relationships look more like this: “You never think about how your behavior affects other people. You’re selfish!” Sound familiar?

Criticism is an attack that dismantles your partner. When we think of unhealthy relationships, we often think of the extremes, such as physical or emotional abuse. Because of this, we often miss subtle signs of unhealthy relationships. We also write them off because they’re common. The regrettable things that are said are looked over because we think everyone makes mistakes. It’s easy to overlook problems when they don’t seem that bad right now.

Problems tend to get worse over time. That gridlocked argument isn’t going to disappear. If the issue holds meaning for one partner, it deserves to be talked about. The goal here isn’t to resolve problems, but to learn how to manage conflict. One day, you may find yourself resenting your partner, and that’s hard to overcome.

No worries – your relationship isn’t doomed.  It isn’t conflict that ends a relationship – it’s the consequences of conflict. Let’s take a step back to engage in some introspection. Below are some predictors of divorce; we can only stop them once we acknowledge their presence.

The Four Horseman

  • Criticism: Attributing an outside problem to a person.
  • Contempt: Behaviors that imply superiority, such as mocking, eye rolling, and scoffing. These are the biggest predictors of divorce. 
  • Defensiveness: Avoiding accountability for a complaint and putting blame on your partner.
  • Stonewalling: Mentally checking out to avoid emotional arousal. The happens when one feels flooded. 

Turning Away

  • Ignoring seemingly meaningless statements from your partner. The person gives up trying when attention isn’t given over time. Low levels of turning toward your partner leads to low bids for attention.
  • Turning away from your partner looks like one of the following:
    • Not fully listening to your partner’s stress.
    • Not siding with your partner.
    • Inserting your opinion rather than validating feelings.
    • Not asking questions to understand on a deeper level.

The failure of repair attempts.

  • Any attempt to keep the fight from escalating is a repair attempt. Those include:
    • Humor
    • Extending a hand,
    • Taking a break to calm down.
  • Failure to make repair attempts is failure to process and repair.

The failure to accept influence.

  • We all have core needs that are grounded in who we are. However, we have areas of flexibility. Failure to be flexible and accept influence from your partner keeps your relationship from reaching a compromise.
  • There’s an underlying issue in what is being argued about. Failure to accept influence from your partner is failure to understand the meaning of the issue.

Negative sentiment override.

  • Developing a negative attributions about their partner begins with:
    • Minimizing pleasant past experiences and maximize unpleasant experiences
    • Perceiving even neutral things as negative.

Ultimately, remember that if one partner wins the fight, you’re both losing. You’re a team.

Give Amy Wine Counseling Center a call at 832-421-8714 for more information about our therapeutic services or to schedule an appointment.

Further Reading:

www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-recognizing-criticism-contempt-defensiveness-and-stonewalling/

www.gottman.com/blog/r-is-for-repair/