According to relationship expert John Gottman, the following factors are highly predictive of dissatisfying relationships. Apparently, divorce lawyers agree.
Criticisms often take the form of a personal attack: “You are selfish.” “You are needy.” “You are irresponsible.” Instead of communicating one is unhappy with a behavior (which can be changed), criticism aims at a person’s character. When we are hurt and attacked by our partner, it demotivates us to work through a problem.
Contempt communicates a lack of respect for and even a sense of disgust with your partner. It can be nonverbal, like eye-rolling, a sarcastic tone, and a hostile attitude. Contempt is toxic, and can destroy partners’ motivation to resolve conflicts.
Defensiveness is a way of deflecting the problem and disowning responsibility. Instead of working towards a resolution, partners are saying “I am not the problem. You are.” It can turn into a blame game where no one wins.
Stonewalling is highly damaging. It communicates “You don’t matter enough for me to stay engaged in communication.” It leaves the other person feeling abandoned and alone. When the sense of connectedness is gone, the relationship is emotionally starved.
Learn more about Gottman.