4 Behaviors That Lead Straight to Divorce


How to Save Your Marriage from These Relationship Killers.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a crystal ball and to be able to see all the avoidable problems in your marriage or relationship and do whatever it takes to keep love alive?

Actually, thanks to Dr. John Gottman, a leading expert in marriage counseling, we do.  In over 20 years of studying thousands of couples this psychologist can identify; with over 90 % accuracy, which couples will stay together and which are doomed to divorce.

“There are four deadly behaviors that will kill just about any relationship”, says Gottman, “I call them The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ”.

Number 1:  Criticism.

The war between couples starts with a few choice words.  Verbal, vivid and cutting right to the point, criticism screams; “Everything you do is wrong.”

Gottman notes that criticism is not the same as complaints.  Complains focus on behaviors; criticism attacks the other person’s character. Nobody’s relationship survives much of that. Complain if you must, but don’t take a knife to your partner’s self-esteem.

Number 2: Contempt.

This is a real relationship killer. Conveyed with an eye-roll,  or a condescending tone of voice, this one sneers: “You’re an idiot. I’m smarter than you, I’m always right you’re always wrong.”

Contempt ratchets up the volume of Criticism.  It hurts more, it goes right for the juggler, and it makes people shy away or completely withdraw from a person they used to love, but not perceive as an attacker.

Number 3: Defensiveness.

Defensiveness rises as a reaction to contempt. The tables are turned and the person feeling attacked shoves the problem back onto the partner:

“The problem isn’t me; it you!”  “This is all your fault.” A massive wall springs up between partners and nothing is resolved.

Number 4: Stonewalling.

Tuning out. Withdrawing physically and mentally, checking out, emotional abandonment. Stonewalling is a way of avoiding feeling, and a response to the sensation of being overwhelmed with negative emotions. The stonewaller ignores the partner and gives no sign of responsiveness.  When a relationship gets to this point, it is hanging by a thread.

So, how can we save marriages from these four relationship killers?

Couples need to learn to banish those first three ‘Horsemen’; Criticism, Contempt and Defensiveness before they take up permanent residence and lead to Stonewalling.

Although the withdrawal of Stonewalling tends to signal the bitter end, even at this point relationships can be saved.  The key is to know the signs, stop them in their tracks and avoid escalating to the point of hitting that brick wall.

Surprisingly, anger and fiery arguments are not necessarily a sign that a marriage or relationship will end, or is even in trouble. Some couples thrive on drama and enjoy, perhaps even need,  the intensity.

Anger doesn’t kill romance.  Indifference does.

Don’t let The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse trample on your relationship. Take the reins and steer your marriage in the right direction.

JoAnn Richi, MC, LPC  © 2017

About JoAnn Richi

JoAnn Richi is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in Phoenix, AZ. You can reach JoAnn at (602) 578-9766. Her website is www.JoAnnRichi.com