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4 Reasons Relationships Breakdown, According To Dr Gottman

After a decade (or so!) in the dating and relationship wellness space, I have identified credible Relationship Experts & Psychologists that help couples connect and singles understand their own behaviour and that of others.

One credible and well respected expert, who’s insights I really value is Dr Gottman. He is an expert in Relationships and has a lot of focus on conflict and relationship disconnect and discontent. Alot of the focus is to get to the core of whats really going on and the issues that hold couple back from deep connection that could be available to them if they identified whats getting in the way of that.

Dr Gottmanexplains that there are some “habits” that without being addressed, don’t serve couples and ensure they lead themselves and the relationship down a path of relationship disconnection and discontent.

Dr Gottman claims to be able to predict with 91 per cent accuracy whether a couple will break up, revealed which four bad habits inevitably lead to divorce or a breakup. He calls them the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." So in order to avoid divorce, couples need to recognize those early and avoid them.

Here are four habits that Dr Gottman talks about:

1. Criticism

The line between constructive criticism and a complaint that attacks the essence of the other is very fine. Criticism is part of our everyday life - we have a lot to do with it, especially on a professional level. Constant criticism in a relationship, which has a reproachful tone, according to Gottman, is not necessarily the most dangerous poison for love - however, it paves the way for the three other "drivers", who are able to do far worse.

People who are criticised are mostly unaware of that key point related to human nature. When we feel valuable in the eyes of others then we cooperate, when we feel devalued then we resist. Resistance is a hurdle to connection, especially in romantic relationships.

If you want to help your partner break a bad habit or improve, you need to understand how criticism works and not point out how you are always right and others are always doing things wrong. The need to be right creates separatness which is the opposite of togetherness that a couple need to be on the same page, to feel connected and to be a team.

You need to learn to talk to people, explaining in detail what is bothering you and why you need to point out a perceived flaw through criticism.

2. Contempt

If we look at our partner with contempt, nothing good can come of it. Consciously or unconsciously, if we act mean, disrespectful, mocking or sarcastic these are not ingredients that create connection or a happy and healthy romantic relationship. The purpose of contempt is to make the other person feel worthless and inferior. But your partner also suffers physically, because contempt can make someone feel unwell. Studies have shown that couples who despise each other are more likely to contract infectious diseases than others. According to Gottman, contempt is the single biggest indicator of divorce and if it is present in a relationship it needs to be addressed immediately - ideally, I would recommend with the support of a professional relationship expert and therapist who can create a safe space for couples to reconnect and identify exactly where the contempt is coming from and why it “lives” in the relationship.

3. Defensiveness

This "tab" is almost expected when relationships breakdown or are on their way to a breakdown. If we feel wrongly accused in the long run, we are in defensive mode all the time and go on the defensive. At some point, you get the feeling that romantic partnership means only fighting and it costs all your energy. Normal conversation is no longer possible when one (or both) is on the defensive.

4. Stonewalling

Anyone who withdraws from the interaction simply shuts down, stops responding to the partner and totally blocks them is already emotionally exiting the partnership - even just in the dispute phase. Anyone who has tried hard (Dr. Gottman calls this "stoning") and retreated into their own inner castle and closed all the partitions, gives their partner the feeling that they are alone and can no longer get through. Also exciting: It is often the case that one partner displays active behaviour - this includes criticism and contempt - and the other displays reactive behaviour - this includes defending against criticism and blocking contempt. So, in fact, it always takes two for a relationship to fail as relationships are how two people relate to one another afterall.

If you need any support in your relationship based on these four behaviours that can hold couples back from deep and meaningful connection, I would love to support you and look forward to hearing from you. You can book in an initial session to see if couples coaching is for you whereby I use Imago Therapy to help couples reconnect by facilitating a dialogue. Please enquire for your relationship couples coaching here, I can operate online or in person depending on your location. I work with disconnected couples worldwide who seek a more intimate and connected relationship and would no doubt love to work with you both.

Much Love,

Sarah Louise Ryan x


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