Four Marriage Busters
...and What to Do About Them
Have you ever entered into "The Script" with your spouse? The Script is a repeated argument where you can predict...he says...then she says...then he says... Marriage reseacher John Gottman discovered that 69% of arguments that couples have are about unsolvable problems. For some couples it is helpful to identify The Script and what triggers The Script in their relationship. Another approach is to learn how to communicate respectfully in a way that honors your partner's position even when you disagree.
Gottman found that the following behaviors left unchecked lead couples into a downward spiral toward divorce.These marriage busters, which he calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, are found in his book, 10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage:
Criticism - criticism often begins as a complaint or incident of blaming your partner but ends up as an outright attack on your partner's character or personality. If you hear yourself say "you always" or "you never," criticism is likely tearing at your relationship.
Defensiveness - No one likes to be blamed or criticized. Defensiveness is a counterattack one or both partners use to defend their innocence or avoid taking responsibility for a problem. Defensiveness often takes the form of cross-complaining or whining.
Contempt - Or the combination of criticism with hostility or disgust. It may look like someone rolling their eyes while you try to tell them something important about yourself. Contempt can involve sarcasm, name-calling, mocking or belligerence.
Stonewalling -When the listeners withdraw from the conversation without offering physical or verbal cues that they are affected by what they hear. It is like talking to a stone wall.
If these marriage busters have invaded your marriage, what can you do?
Gottman found that when couples replace negative behaviors with the following positive behaviors they strengthen their relationship, which leads to them feeling closer, encouraging compromise or healing old wounds.
Softened Start-Up - When one partner begins talking about a problem or complaint gently, without criticizing or insulting the other, the partner is more willing to listen. This makes problem solving and compromise possible.
Turning Toward Your Partner - In close relationships partners reach out for emotional connection in what Gottman calls "an emotional bid" such as a comment, a question, a smile or a hug. When one partner makes an emotional bid, the other can respond in one of three ways.
1. turn away and ignore the bid
2. turn against-reacting with anger or hostility
3. turn toward, demonstrating openness, listening and engagement
Habitually turning away or turning against your partner harms the relationship. Consistently turning toward your partner strengthens emotional bonds, friendship and romance.
Repairing the Conversation -When things get heated, repairs are an attempt to de-escalate negative feelings. Repairs include apologies, a smile, or adding humor to break the tension and help you both feel more relaxed.
Accepting Influence - Partners who are open to persuasion from one another tend to have stronger, happier marriages. Stubbornness or domineering has the opposite effect. Gottman's research studies have shown that a husband's willingness to accept influence from his wife can particularly help to form a strong, happy marriage.