Issue #4 - April 21, 2011  

Counseling Comments & Insights from
Debbra Bronstad, MS   

Marriage & Family Therapist Intern

Grief Recovery Specialist

Life Coach 

Serving men, women, children and couples in San Luis Obispo County  

(805) 242-3569 

In This Issue
Four Marriage Busters
Does Your Marriage Need a Tune Up?
Office Locations:

Click below for  

address & map

Make Your Marriage Better!



(805) 242-3569

Join Our Mailing List
Click Above to Subscribe
Find us on FacebookFacebook  Follow us on Twitter

Stop by and

Like my Facebook Page and Follow

me on Twitter!

Visit my Website 



I wish you all a Blessed Resurrection Celebration as we commemorate Jesus' life in his death, burial and resurrection. Because He lives we have forgiveness of our sins, a home in heaven and hope for our difficulties here on earth.


Today we have an article on dealing with Four Marriage Busters...and What to Do About Them.  

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.


Does Your Marriage Need a Tune-up?
If criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt sound familiar in your relationship, give me a call at (805) 242-3569 for a free consultation about how we can work together to increase the positive interactions that build love, respect, intimacy and friendship. The longer you wait, the harder it is to change negative patterns of relating, in addition to the added emotional burden of wounding each other over the years. There is hope for change, even if only one partner is willing to work.  Call today.

I look forward to hearing from you and supporting you in your life, family and relationship journey.


Warm regards,



Debbra Bronstad

Debbra Bronstad, MS  (805) 242-3569

Marriage & Family Therapist Intern IMF 62480
Certified Grief Recovery Specialist
Supervisor: Sandra Sawyer, LCSW, LCS 12477