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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An Open Letter To My Boyfriend's Mom

I know he must have been a handful growing up, and she deserves a million thank you's from me.
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I’m proud to say that I am one of the lucky ones. Although he isn’t perfect (and I’m glad he isn’t and I don’t want him to be), I’ve found a guy I never want to let go of. But no matter how charismatic and wonderful I think he is, I owe it all to the woman who raised him. I know he must have been a handful growing up, and she deserves a million thank you's from me.

Thank you for teaching him respect—not just towards women, but to anyone and everyone he encounters. Listening to him address strangers with “ma’am” and “sir” melts my heart just as much as him holding the door open for me at the restaurant or complimenting me with “beautiful” instead of “hot”.

Thank you for teaching him how to treat a woman. You and I both know that he puts up a front of being tough but he is honestly the biggest teddy bear anyone could ever meet. He has the biggest heart, and despite the many silly arguments he and I may have, not a day goes by that he doesn’t make me feel loved or special.

Thank you for raising him in Christ. Being with someone who shares the same love I have for Jesus is one of the greatest blessings. I’ll forever cherish sitting together in the church pew on Sunday mornings and our deep conversations about why God created the stars.

Thank for teaching him how to do laundry. I think you’ve saved me in the long run.

Thank you for teaching him the value of hard work. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone with as much perseverance, drive, and dedication before, especially when it comes to washing the dishes.

Thank you for sitting through all those rainy football games. Thank you for giving up your weekends to watch basketball. Thank you for travelling hours to support his baseball career. Although I am most certainly not as much of a sports fanatic as he is, it’s nice being able to watch and learn about his passions, as well as hearing stories from his "glory days".

But most of all, thank you for allowing me to date him and always making me feel like a part of your family. You are one of the sweetest women I know, and you have raised a once in a lifetime kind of son.

I know to you, he will always be the messy little boy who loves to fish and catch baseballs, and I want you to know that I love him with all of my heart, and because of you, I have found someone I wish to love for the rest of my life. I only hope to do as great of a job of loving and caring for him as you have done for his whole life.

Cover Image Credit: Ashlie Lamb

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To The Boys From My Past, I Hope You Know...

I was fine before you and I'll be fine after you, too.

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That feeling. That stinging, throat-in-lump feeling. That feeling that you get when it finally hits you that you've lost someone. Your time with them has finally come to an end. They came, they served their purpose, they taught you lessons, but now it's time for them to go. I can think of them as wasted times, but that would be a lie. Through every ending I've had, I learned something new.

The first love with many lessons

You taught me everything. You showed me what I wanted. You were my first love.

You set my expectations so incredibly high, that it'll be hard to find someone that compares to you. We grew together for so long, that I could never forget you.

. . but you also taught me what pain is. You showed me what it's like to be broken. You were my first heartbreak.

By now I hope that you've realized that not a single girl you cheated on me with will ever compare to even half of who I am. I hope you realized what you did, what you gave up. But I also hope that by now you know that I have forgiven you.

I still wish you the best and I will always pray that you find someone and are able to love them the way you once loved me.

The best friend who I simply wasn't ready for

You made me laugh often. You showed me what I deserve. You were my best friend.

Through you, I learned that a relationship is work - it's effort, yet, you were always so willing to give it. Since we were able to build a foundation based on pure friendship, it just made our relationship that much better.

However, for the mistakes I made, I'm sorry. I didn't deserve you.

I wish I could've reciprocated the same feelings you showed me, but I know that someday you're going to find a girl that will. They're going to accept you and your love whole-heartedly. You will be happier with someone else than you were with me, I promise.

I know you're going to end up in the right place with the right heart.

The guy who will take my heart a thousand miles around the globe

You taught me how to validate myself as a person. You showed me that there is beauty in vulnerability.

Through you, I made some of the best memories. Some of the memories that I'll keep close to my heart for the rest of my life. In the year I've known you, I learned more about myself and the world around me than I have in my 19 years of living.

"We are just like the waves that flow back and forth. Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning and you're there to save me and I wanna thank you with all of my heart".

I know you will love the right girl in ways she won't be able to fathom. I know you're going to make someone out there live a blissful life. I know that when the right girl comes around, you will be ready for her.

I want to wish you nothing but happiness on your brand new start. Always remember, I'm here for you.

The "what if" I'll never hear from again

You overlooked me. You didn't want me. You made me wonder, but you also made me have hope.

You showed me what it's like to want someone but not be able to do anything about it but pray, but trust God.

I have yet to know if you were really the perfect guy for me or if I made myself believe you were the perfect guy for me.

Love wasn't a priority for you, but I get it. We're all in different wavelengths at this time in our lives that I have no reason to be upset. However, that doesn't change the fact that I wish I could've gotten a chance with you.

There are many lessons I could've taught you, but I know that another one will come around and teach you themselves. I know that whatever girl ends up with you is going to be so, so lucky.

You made it hard for me, but I know you'll make it easy for someone else.

The ambiguous new adventure that's waiting

You're new, you're exciting, you're a whole new adventure ahead of me. I don't know what will become of us, I don't even know if something will become of us, but I'm so excited to see.

You are kind, you are gentle. You are patient and you are pure.

My friends see the smile I have on my face when I'm around you. They say I'm happier than I've ever been before.

I believe them.

Thank you for accepting not only myself, but those I love too. Wherever we may end up, I hope you know that however long or short our time is together, you are a blessing. You are my blessing.

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