Marriage is an incredible bond that requires consistent effort and commitment from both partners. A healthy relationship is essential to ensure that couples stay connected and continue to grow together for years to come. Unfortunately, certain habits can have a severely negative impact on marriages, leading to tension, frustration, and even divorce.
This set of negative habits and behaviors was identified by Dr. John Gottman, a renowned therapist, as the 4 Horsemen, they are significant predictors of divorce. These habits are very toxic and corrosive if practiced in any relationship, especially in a romantic one. Let’s take a closer look at each of these habits and how they negatively impact marriage relationships.
Criticism is the act of pointing out faults and flaws in your partner’s behavior or character. Criticism typically starts with words like “you always” or “you never” and focuses on blaming rather than problem-solving. Criticism leads to defensiveness, as the person being criticized feels the need to protect themselves or retaliate. While it is essential to identify areas of improvement in your partner, doing so without tact can cause resentment and decrease their self-esteem. When criticism becomes a common occurrence, it can lead to resentment and distance between the partners. Criticism can make a person feel attacked and unloved, which can cause significant damage to a marriage relationship.
Contempt is a feeling of disdain or disrespect towards your partner. Contempt can manifest in the form of acting superior to the partner, mocking or belittling them, and using sarcasm, insults, or hostile humor. Contempt is a sign that one partner has lost all respect for the other, and it’s incredibly destructive to the relationship. When a partner is contemptuous, they’re essentially saying that their partner isn’t worth their time or effort, which can lead to feelings of loneliness, hurt, anger, bitterness, despair, and further problems in the relationship.
Defensiveness is a natural response to criticism. However, it can also be a sign of negative communication patterns. Rather than listening to their partner’s concerns, a defensive partner often becomes validated and reverts to blaming their partner or making excuses; this attitude prevents them from taking responsibility for their actions and disengages effectively in conflict resolution. This behavior can be frustrating and makes it difficult for the partner to communicate effectively with them, leading to further issues. Defensiveness can escalate a conflict and undermine trust and cooperation.
Stonewalling is the act of withdrawing from communication and shutting down emotionally. Stonewalling typically involves silent treatment or physical withdrawal from the conversational setting, making it impossible for the couple to resolve their issues. It is a behavior that can cause immense frustration and hurt in a marriage relationship. Stonewalling can happen because the person feels overwhelmed or incapable of responding without causing further problems. It can lead to a breakdown in communication and create a feeling of distance between partners. Stonewalling is a sign that one partner has checked out of the relationship, leading to feelings of isolation and emotional neglect.
In conclusion, these patterns of behavior can be subtle, but over time they can completely destroy a marriage. They lead to the erosion of trust and intimacy between partners. If left unchecked, they can ultimately lead to the breakdown of the relationship. Therefore, it is essential to recognize these patterns in your relationship and take steps to address them before it’s too late. Communication and seeking professional help are essential steps in confronting these negative habits and strengthening your marriage bond.