Most of the time people enter relationships with a feeling that everything has excellent potential. They’re not anticipating an end to their love. The truth is, that’s often the case. Relationships do end. Often, warning signs are missed, but they do exist. John Gottman, Ph.D., is a leading psychologist in the area of marriage and relationships. He has four warning signs and adjustments that can be made:
- Criticism - It’s not the same as complaining, when you’re attacking one particular problem or the behavior of your partner. You’re actually attacking their character. A criticism might include, “You are such a slob”. A complaint, on the other hand, would sound more like, “I’m tired of picking up after you”. You can’t say anything constructive when a person is criticizing, or, it would be more difficult. If someone complains, it’s easier to address the concern. To fix this, make it a point to complain and not criticize. And, if your partner is guilty of the latter, have a discussion about it and see if they’ll commit to not criticizing.
- Contempt - This is really criticism, magnified. When you’re attacking your partner as a person, it’s demeaning and insulting. You’re looking down on them, possibly calling them names, mocking them and being sarcastic. To fix this, increase your tolerance. Learn to communicate with your partner and appreciate each other. Couples therapy is often necessary for relationships involving contempt.
- Defensiveness - This is when you’re attacked and then attack in defense. This typically involves playing the victim, ignoring your partner, making excuses and disagreeing. To fix this, listen to the complaint and try to empathize. Then, take responsibility, or some of it. After truly listening and showing compassion, tell your side of the story.
- Stonewalling - Checking out of a conversation to protect oneself from being hurt is stonewalling. A person will stop following the conversation or actually leave. They may seem apathetic, but are actually overwhelmed. To fix this, try to discuss the issue together and find out when the person stonewalling is becoming overwhelmed. Make plans to give space if needed and eventually come back to discussing the problem. Identify these issues early on. The longer they last, the more it hurts your relationship. If you’re trying your best to fix things and there’s no cooperation, and situations are repeated, you might try counseling together. Also try reading the book, The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships by John Gottman, Ph.D.