Four unhealthy communication styles that can predict divorce. 

Saying it Silently Packs Most Punch

Communication issues happen to be one of the top reasons couples find themselves in counseling. Having healthy communication is vitally important in order to feel heard and intimately connected. Having healthy communication allows you to solve problems effectively and assert your needs without conflict. However, many couples struggle to communicate effectively and find themselves communicating with one, some, or all of the four unhealthy communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship.

  1. Contempt. This happens when you are intentionally interacting with your partner in a mean and cruel way. This can include taunting, treating with disdain, name calling, invalidation, and non verbal communication such as an intimidating posture. Due to the intent of content is to demean the other this is the number one predictor of divorce and a relationships demise. In a verbally abusive situation each partner begins to be verbally abusive and hard to not see your partner as an enemy.

Example: “That was a really dumb thing to do. (Scoffs). Anyone with eyes could see how stupid that was.”
2.Defensiveness. This is a stance that haopens whem one perceived they are being attacked. In order to ward off ones perceived since of responsibility or failure that tjey do not feel comfortable witj admitting or accepting. This cam also been seen as  blaming the other person or deflecting to not take responsibility.


Person 1: Did you grab the tomatoes from the grocery store?

Person 2: You know that I have a busy schedule.  Why were you not able to do it?

  1. Criticism. This occurs when one or both partners attacks the other based on percieved imperfections. This can happen when one uses, “always” or “never” as qualifiers. Using these terms makes it appear that the other party cannot change.

Exanple:” You always forget to take out the trash. I wish you were not so self centered.”

  1. Stonewalling. Stonewalling happens whenever you feel like you are actually putting up a wall between you and your partner. You find yourself unable to talk about what is going on so you shut down. This may happen because you felt disrespectful, unheard, or believe that there is “no point in continuing the conversation”. When these thoughts begin to pile up you can be so over-stimulated that your body literally shuts down. Furthermore, if you find yourself disengaging from the conversation check to see if you could be trying to punish your partner. This could look like leaving the room, tuning the person out, and becoming unresponsive.

These four communication styles can be precursors to a divorce or end of a dating relationship. Of all the four communication patterns contempt is the highest predictor of relationship dissolution. If you have found yourself frustrated with perpetual issues with no solution this may be due to one of the unhealthy styles blocking a resolution.  In my next article I will discuss ways in which to eliminate these four patterns.

About Whitney Doyeto LMFT

I am Whitney Doyeto, M.A., LMFT, the licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Serenity Marriage and Family Counseling, LLC. I earned both a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Oral Roberts University. ​I feel called to give hope and renewal to individuals, couples, and families. I strive to create more support, structure, and stability, into the lives of those I serve. I have been married for six years and recently welcomed my first child, a baby girl, in April of 2016. I am passionate about exercise, traveling, and volunteering at Church.