4 Habits That Will Ruin Your Relationship

4 Habits That Will Ruin Your Relationship

According to a guy famous for his ability to predict with 98% certainty whether a couple would divorce.
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February is finally here — aka the time of year when it’s perfectly acceptable to eat an excessive amount of See’s Candies Dark Chocolate Nuts & Chews. Who’s with me?

With the passing of Valentine’s Day, and whether the holiday finds you single as a pringle, or booking a dinner date with bae, the pops of pink and roses red invading grocery stores, Instagram feeds, and advertisements all around are unavoidable.

I'm with those of you in the first category but either way, celebrating the love in our lives doesn't have to be limited to significant others. The holiday of hearts doesn't have to be about what we do or do not have all — but rather a celebration of what we do. This exact day in my life, I only get to live once, and I get to decide how I’m going to live it. Same goes for February 14, and this entire month of love.

Today, I choose gratitude.

Today, I’m thankful for my family and friends, ones who are there in the moments it matters most, and who support me without wavering. I’m thankful for mentors and leaders who walk with and pour into me, each leaving a distinct impression on the person I’m becoming.

Thankfulness is trendy to talk about in November, but it’s applicable the other eleven months as well. We all have things we’re waiting on, whether it be a relationship, career breakthrough, or positive pregnancy test. The longings we feel are real, but so are the blessings we already have — and without gratitude, we run the risk of missing them.

I write this to hold myself accountable more than anything, because I’m far too good on focusing on what I don’t have, rather than what I do. But I want to be a better steward of the blessings God has given me. Specifically, I want to continually learn to love the people I do have in my life better — which brings me to the topic of this post.

As I mentioned here, I’m starting to share more of the resources that challenge and inspire me on the Books + Pretty Words section of my blog. Today, I’m sharing one I discovered in a communication studies class in college, called the Four Horseman of relationships. This metaphor depicting the end times was developed by Dr. John Gottman, professor emeritus in psychology. Gottman is famous for being able to predict with 98% certainty whether or not a couple will divorce. He bases his predictions on whether or not certain habits are present in relationships — key word being habit. Truth is, we’re human and all of these will occur in most relationships at one time or another, but their habitual presence is when Gottman would classify them as a Horseman — a signal that the relationship was likely to have an end date.

Gottman’s research was centered on his work with married couples, but the principles he discovered are applicable to any relationship, hence why we were studying them in a communication class. I don’t think these habits often come up with acquaintances or even good friends we don’t see often. I think they manifest themselves most in the roommate, family, and spouse relationships — people we’re with day in and day out, who are often exposed to our worst. As I was writing this, I tried to think not of times when others, but I myself have had tendencies towards these habits. I challenge you to do the same as you read! Below are the Four Horsemen — four habits that will ruin a relationship.

1. Criticism

Rather than constructively pointing out something that bothered you, criticism is an attack on the person. For example, a complaint would be, “I feel like I’m left to do most of the cleaning on my own. I thought we had agreed to share this responsibility?” Criticism would accuse, “You never do any of cleaning; I always have to do it myself. You’re a lazy, ungrateful slob.” One is a statement on the person’s behavior, whereas the other is shame-driven, and it’s a statement on who they are.

“Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” - Brené Brown

2. Contempt

This is basically mean-heartedness. As Gottman says, “Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about a person, which come to a head in the perpetrator attacking the accused from a position of relative superiority. The target of contempt is made to feel despised and worthless.” This can be mocking with sarcasm, name-calling, eye-rolling. Contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce according to Gottman’s work, and he even found contemptuous couples to have weaker immune systems.

3. Defensiveness

Defensiveness is the grappling for excuses when we feel accused, in an attempt to get the accuser to back off. It’s a way of shifting the blame rather than owning it, and it corrodes the opportunity to deal with conflict in a healthy way. It’s often rooted in the mistaken belief that “if I own my bad behavior, it means I myself am bad.”

4. Stonewalling

This is when one person completely checks out, and it’s often a compounded response to being overwhelmed with the first three horsemen. It’s when you see someone completely unresponsive, even in the face of a highly upset or angry partner. Rather than confronting the issues, stonewalling, according to Gottman, “is when we make evasive maneuvers such as tuning out, turning away, acting busy, or engaging in obsessive behaviors.”

Discovering these habits doesn't have to mean doom, it can simply be an opportunity to prompt change. What do you think? Did any of these "Horsemen" surprise you? What habits have you found to be detrimental to relationships? Let me know in the comments!

Cover Image Credit: kacinicole.com

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Stop Saying 'Love Is Love' And Then Shame Me For Dating A Republican

"How can you date a Republican?!" Quite easily, actually.

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"And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love." Other theater geeks like me probably also remember this quote from Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony acceptance speech in 2016. Now, thanks to Lin-Manuel and his talent for catchy phrases, every time someone says "love is love," all I can think of is Lin-Manuel's emphatic cry for equality.

This cry is one that I support wholeheartedly. I think that you should be allowed to love whomever you choose and that you should do so without fear of hatred or scrutiny. If you are a guy who loves guys, great. If you are a girl who loves girls, great. If you are a girl who loves guys and girls, great. You are born a certain way with certain sexual preferences, and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, if you believe that people should be free to love anyone they choose, then, honey, you better start looking past gender.

Let me tell you a little story.

Recently, I had a conversation with one of my closest friends about my boyfriend of almost 11 months. Somehow (and I'm shocked that this hadn't come up before), my boyfriend's political preferences became the topic of conversation.

The conversation went something like this:

"Wait, so is Tom a Democrat or Republican?"

"He's a Republican."

"WHAT?! Are you serious?"

"Yep."

"How can you date a Republican?"

After that, I basically went on a five-minute rant about how at the end of the day, his political preferences only make up a small fraction of who he is as a person and that I am not so shallow that I would be deterred by something this trivial.

At our cores, Tom and I value the exact same things: compassion, knowledge, kindness, dedication, honesty, respect, and above all else, love. Tom loves me unconditionally and I give him that same love in return; honestly, what else could I ask for?

Tom and I do get in some political arguments from time to time, but we also agree on those issues that are most important to me: female reproductive rights, marriage equality, and support for survivors of sexual assault. All of those things are non-negotiables for me, and Tom understands that and possesses his own list of non-negotiables.

Before you ask, yep, he voted for Trump. Did that take me back at first? Yes. Did I struggle to understand what would compel a person to vote for him? Absolutely. Did that thought kind of terrify me at first? Hell yes.

But you know what? After I just sat and listened to Tom's reasoning as to why he voted for him and watched him delve deep into Trump's policies, I could understand why some would vote for him. And to tell the truth, once I fell in love with Tom, none of that mattered anymore. And what is sad is that people so often fall so deep into their own echo chambers nowadays, that they wouldn't even give someone with different beliefs their ear. Well, I'm damn glad I did because Tom is the most amazing person I've ever met and I fall more in love with him every day.

So to tie this all together with a pretty little bow, if you're going to go around and preach that love is love and that everyone should be free to love whom they choose, then that shouldn't change for me. Maybe you're a Democrat that would never date a Republican or maybe you're a Republican who would never date a Democrat; that's your choice. But we don't get to choose who we fall in love with (much to the dismay of my liberal family and friends). Just keep an open mind and who knows? Maybe you could find some absolutely epic happiness.

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Why My Ex And I Would Have Never Worked

A comprehensive explanation.

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For those of you who normal keep up with my life, or have read about my boyfriend and I, I just want to make it clear that I am not talking about him. Rather, I'm talking about my ex from a while ago. It wasn't a relationship that broke my heart and it wasn't something that I had around just for shits and giggles. The relationship was real and it started like any relationship that shouldn't be happening. It with a kiss in a car, a very sad looking car. That should have been my first indicator but I was in crush mode so what did I know? It was alright, the relationship was good-ish (second indicator- still in crush mode).

My ex (who will remain nameless) was a great person and always wanted to do things for me. Get me food when I might need it, Sheetz coffee when I wanted it and all the music suggestions I desired. And then I noticed the trends; I was short-tempered more often when I was around him, I was making excuses for him, I was going back to my old and bad eating habits, my self control was weakening, and I was getting more and more depressed. We shared all of those things in common and I realized that I was feeding myself off of his negativity and he fed off of mine. So I called for us to work on it. And for a time, we did. But things seemed to revert back to the negativity and the bad habits. My anger issues were bursting at the seems and I happened to be getting more and more frustrated with everything. The way coffee smelled irritated me and anyone who knows me knows I love coffee. Something was going terribly wrong.

The day I won't forget is when he happened to do something very wrong in a situation that I had to admit was out of line. And yet again, I was still making excuses and trying to make things better for him but I was out of ways to get him out of trouble and I had to give up trying to save him. Then a separate incident occurred and I couldn't get him out of trouble again. I had to be done trying to make it work when we were each others' problem. We had been feeding each other the same negativity that had been looping through us for the time we were together. We were never going to work because we were never going to change without motivation and example enough to do so.

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