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Criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling and divorce

On Behalf of | May 24, 2024 | Divorce |

You always thought that your marriage would last forever – but something has changed. You can feel the difference in your relationship with your spouse, and the gap between you seems to be growing bigger.

Is your marriage really over, or is there still a point in trying to hold on? It may very well depend on the presence or absence of four main predictors of divorce in your relationship: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.

Who says that these 4 things are relationship killers?

The Gottman Institute has done years of research into human relationships, and they’ve concluded that – rich or poor, young or old – couples are more likely to end up divorced when these four elements have become omnipresent in your marriage. Here’s why:

  • Criticism: It’s one thing when a spouse needs to address a real problem that’s causing marital strain – but it is entirely another when one spouse keeps launching personal attacks on the other. It’s also rarely positive when one spouse offers unsolicited “advice” (which is usually thinly veiled criticism) to the other, especially if they do it regularly.
  • Contempt: Name-calling, eye-rolling, sarcasm, mockery disguised as “jokes” and other forms of contempt can actually be a form of abuse. They can tear down the targeted spouse’s self-esteem and destroy any sense of mutual respect within the relationship.
  • Defensiveness: Couples can’t work on an issue if one party refuses to participate in active listening and at least consider what the other is saying. If every dispute ends with one spouse invalidating the other’s feelings and trying to “turn the tables” so that they can place blame squarely on the hurt spouse’s shoulders, that’s destructive.
  • Stonewalling: Finally, if one spouse constantly gives the other spouse “the silent treatment” when they’ve done something to displease them, that leaves the affected spouse feeling like they can do nothing right – and they may stop trying. 

No relationship is perfect, and any of these issues can crop up from time to time. When they’re all present and fairly constant, however, it may be time to ask yourself why you’re staying. Divorce may be the most viable option.