4 Things You’re Likely Doing That Will Eventually Kill Your Relationship

According to renowned marriage therapist John Gottman, there are four behaviors that can reliably predict the end of a marriage — and you’re probably guilty of them.

For 40 years, the psychology professor and his team at the Gottman Institute have studied couples’ interactions to determine the key predictors of divorce — or as Gottman calls them, “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.” The communication sins are more mundane than you’d think: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling (emotionally withdrawing from your partner).
Below, experts share their best advice for avoiding these behaviors in your own marriage.

Criticism isn’t simply complaining to your spouse about their dishwashing technique or smartphone use. A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, while a criticism attacks the character of the person. In other words, it’s a verbal attack meant to inflict emotional pain.
How to avoid it:
1. Think about what’s really bothering you before criticizing your spouse.
2. Don’t say everything that’s on your mind.
3. Turn your criticism into a wish.

Contempt is the worst of the four horsemen — and the number one predictor of divorce, according to Gottman. Contemptuous behavior includes eye-rolling, sarcasm, hostile humor and name-calling.
How to avoid it:
1. Instead of telling your partner what’s wrong with them, tell your partner what’s true for you.
2. Make a point to show how much you value and appreciate your partner.
3. Remember: Delivery is everything.

Defensiveness is essentially “self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood in attempt to ward off a perceived attack.” When you play the blame game, you’re engaging in defensiveness.
How to avoid it:
1. Try to be sympathetic toward your partner.
2. Tell your partner you’re feeling under attack.
3. And be big enough to apologize.

Stonewalling occurs whenever you turn away from your partner rather than confronting the issue. When you give your spouse the silent treatment and retreat to the bedroom, you’re stonewalling them.
How to avoid it:
1. Recognize the physical signs.
2. Come up with a safe word that conveys your need for a break.
3. When you start to tune out, call a timeout.

– HuffPost Lifestyle blog entry, June 29, 2016

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