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Four Toxic Communications Pattern That Hurt Relationships And How To Fix Them (Part 1/2)

Delphine

June 5, 2020 6:50 am

Relationships always start great, but it takes consistent work to make them last. Unfortunately, too many couples throw in the towel with their ‘’Swipe Left’’ mentality and conclude  they are ‘’Not Meant To Be’’, only to repeat the same dysfunctional patterns in their next relationship. To prevent clashes you need to avoid the 4 horsemen […]

Relationships always start great, but it takes consistent work to make them last. Unfortunately, too many couples throw in the towel with their ‘’Swipe Left’’ mentality and conclude  they are ‘’Not Meant To Be’’, only to repeat the same dysfunctional patterns in their next relationship. To prevent clashes you need to avoid the 4 horsemen of the relationship apocalypse.

Truth is, love isn’t a fairytale… and relationships take work. Staying healthy takes work and dedication, and so does a (healthy) relationship.

“Relationships last not because they were destined to last,  relationships last because two people made a choice to keep it, fight for it and work for it.”

All couples have a pattern that emerges when they argue, no matter what they’re fighting about.

Most of us don’t realize that there are patterns to how we fight.

All relationships have conflict. It is unavoidable.

 Conflict and disagreement are inevitable. It happened before and it will happen again. If relationships don’t last it’s not because couples fight, or how much they fight, because truth is, fighting is healthy. It can be healthy when managed properly, and serves as a positive opportunity  for growth and understanding.

’’Turns out negativity is actually very productive in relationships because hurt feelings and negativity wind up for a reason, calling out stuff that doesn’t work in relationships, right? Hurt your partner’s feelings, you learn something, and you talk about how to make it better next time.’’

John Gottman, Ph.D. (The Gottman Institute-Making Marriage Work)

What predicts the end of a relationship is how you fight.

Dr. John Gottman, Ph.D. , a world-renowned relationship researcher, has spent nearly 4 decades to identify the elements of a successful relationship.

‘’We can predict which couples will  stay together and which one will get a divorce, with over 90% accuracy. In fact, just in 15mins of a couple talking about an area of continuing disagreement, we can predict with 85% accuracy whether they get divorce, and not only that, after following couples for 14 years, we could not only predict if they would get divorce but when they would get divorce as well.’’

Dr John Gottman, Ph.D (The Gottman Institute-Making Marriage Work).

He found that the presence of criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling in a relationship can predict divorce and name these negative communication styles Horsemen of the relationship”

The 4 horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse

1. Criticism

What: Verbally attacking personality or character of the partner at the core. You’re criticizing not a specific action or behaviour, but your partner as a whole person.

Criticism is different from a complaint.  Complaints focus on a specific issue, and doesn’t carry the negative charge of criticism because it expresses a need, rather than blaming your partner. 

A sign that you’re engaging with this horsemen is if you catch yourself using ‘’You’’ statements, and words like ; ‘’always’’, ‘’never’’, ‘’should.’’

‘’You’’ + negative judgement= make your partner feel attacked

‘’Always’’, ‘’Never’’, ‘’Should’’= implies your partner has a consistent and negative personality flaw. Nobody likes to be told something’s wrong with them! 

*Also, your partner might be triggered to use the horsemen ‘’Defensiveness.’’

Ex: ‘’You are always late!!’’ 

2. Contempt (The single greatest predictor of divorce)

What: Attacking sense of self with an intention to insult or psychologically abuse. Insults don’t have to be extreme to be considered  hurtful, and should be avoided at all costs.

Ex: ‘’You’re just being crazy’’, ‘’I’ll talk to you when you can be rational’’, ”Stop being annoying” ”‘’Why don’t you get it, it’s not that complicated.’’ ‘’You’re just like your mother!

That was probably my favorite part to write… 🙂

3. Defensiveness

What: Victimizing yourself to ward off a perceived attack and shifting the focus away from the problem onto your partner’s flaws. ‘’The problem isn’t me, it’s you.’’

Complaint: ‘’Did you call Ross and Rachel to let them know we can’t make it tonight, as you promised?’’ 

*Can you tell that we’ve been binge-watching FRIENDS recently? 🙂

Defensive answer: ‘’No, I had meetings all day, and I had to work overtime on this important project. You know how busy I get! Why didn’t you do it yourself?’’

4. Stonewalling

Imagine a stone wall between the listener and the speaker

What: Withdrawing to avoid conflict & convey disapproval, distance and separation. Rather than confronting the issue, people withdraw from the conversation by shutting down because they’re feeling overwhelmed or physiologically flooded (increased heart rate, release of stress hormones, ‘’fight or flight’’ response) and tune away by acting busy, engaging in distracting behaviours, or turning away.

Ex: ‘’OMG! I can’t go over the same problem again and again with you!!I’m tired to always remind you to ____!!’’(storms off)

The Antidotes 

You and your partner will not agree on everything. Anger and disappointments are a natural part of the human experience, but there are constructive ways to communicate them.  

If you find yourself in the presence of these 4 horsemen, don’t panic. The first step to improve your communication is to identify the negative pattern. The second step is to replace them with healthy and positive ones. Luckily, each horseman has an effective and constructive alternative. Learn about the antidotes in our next post.

Mastering the Art of Arguing: 4 Communication Mistakes That Hurt Your Relationship + How To Fix Them

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*Notes from the author:

For some reason, the links of my sources aren’t showing in my text. I’m going to add them below while I go (try) to fix it! 🙂

  • Making Marriage Work- The Gottman Institute: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKTyPgwfPgg (If you had only 1 video to watch about relationship, this would be itIt’s a bit long, but I promise you, it’s worth your time. Even better if you watch it together! Dr John Gottman Ph.D. talks about the horsemen , antidotes, the 5:1 ratio, and other techniques that’ve helped thousand of couples (among all types of couples, straight, gays, lesbians etc and across all phases of life) build and maintain a strong, healthy relationship.
  • The 4 Horsemen-The Gottman Institute https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o30Ps-_8is This is a 2 mins video “cartoon-ish” that explains the 4 Horsemen visually. Fun way to learn about the negative communication styles in relationship !

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Four Toxic Communications Pattern That Hurt Relationships And How To Fix Them (part 2/2) 

Four Toxic Communications Pattern That Hurt Relationships And How To Fix Them (Part 1/2)