15 Nov 4 Behaviours that Harm Marriages

d99e5299d21ffdd3_640_couple-in-loveReady to understand the “do’s and don’ts” for healthy and rewarding relationships?

At the forefront of evidence based research is the work by Dr. John Gottman and his team at The Gottman Institute in Seattle, who have been studying married couples for decades, with the aim of identifying what couples do that either helps or harms relationship health.

By observing real couples in a domestic environment, Gottman’s team, for example, has been able to pinpoint the following short-list of four behaviours (which he calls “The Four Horsemen”) that are statistically proven to be bad news for happy partnerships.

See if any of these are familiar behaviours in your marriage or relationship:

Very common in relationships, criticism becomes a serious problem when it becomes habitual and pervasive. There’s a difference between making a complaint: “I’m not happy about you forgetting to pay that bill”, and a criticism, which is more blaming and global: “You are so forgetful! You’re hopeless! You’ve let me down again”.

Develops when criticism becomes cruel, and includes sarcasm, cynicism, passive aggressive behaviour, mockery, and hostile humour – all designed to convey disgust. When partners engage in contemptuous talk, they aren’t focussing on the common good, but rather, on “winning”, making a point and belittling the other person.

Often intended to justify a certain behaviour, but usually ends up escalating the conflict, because it implies that the problem “isn’t me, it’s you!” Defensiveness prevents personal responsibility and instead aims to shift responsibility (or blame) back onto the other person.

I can’t be on time because I’m spending so much time cleaning up after you” would be a defensive response to a complaint about poor time management. A healthier response may be “Yes, I agree, I am often running late. Can we please work together to make sure these tasks get done, so that I can be ready on time?”

This means tuning-out, shutting down, ignoring or avoiding interaction. It’s usually a strategy aimed at avoiding conflict. Disengaging may seem like an effective solution, but it’s not. Healthy relationships are connected relationships. Even if issues are confronting and tough, learning how to stay emotionally connected is essential for ongoing relationship satisfaction and growth.

Gottman’s “Four Horsemen” are invaluable starting points for the many couples who together decide to turn bad relationship habits around. Couples can and do turn around unhappy relationships simply by attending to these four behaviours alone. Further information about Dr. Gottman’s extensive and worthwhile research can be found at www.gottman.com

Interested in learning more about how to create a happy relationship? Contact Pamela now. Sunshine Holistic Counselling equips partners with the skills they need to create marriages and relationships that thrive.