Relationships are one of the most beautiful aspects of living life. Having an intimate, closely intertwined life with someone whom you've decided to share every part of your soul with is a gorgeous concept, one that's even more lovely to witness or experience for yourself.
However, as with any great thing, there are road blocks and issues that can arise that can cause the whole thing to shatter if we're not careful. We ought to treat something as beautiful as love with the utmost care, at the very least by avoiding what worsens it, so here's some tips about what to stray away from.
But there is a flip side to relationships, too. All too often, relationships can be difficult to navigate, and it's easy for mistakes to be made. Do you want to learn a secret technique anyone can master that will make someone fall in love with you? For those looking for extra advice, turn to a love expert today to get the help you need to build a strong, lasting relationship.
One Wrong Move
Relationships are a delicate thing, as anyone who's ever been in one can surely tell you. Though strength builds over time, there's still no way of knowing what simple misstep can cause the foundations to crumble before your very eyes.
Thankfully, there has been some general research into what the most common destructive forces in a relationship are, so at the very least, you can learn to stay away from the things most likely to cause any issues.
Psychologist Dr. John Gottman wrote a book called What Predicts Divorce? in which he gathered his research, data pulled from studies conducted on over 40,000 couples, and compiled it all into a manual of sorts that details what exactly causes ruin in a long-term relationship.
Most people might assume it's something related to infidelity or cheating, a lack of physical intimacy, or not spending time together, but it's actually deceptively simple in comparison. So much so that you might not even think to guess it.
What kills a relationship is how one communicates within it.
Psychologist Dr. Jessica Griffin and Sexologist Dr. Pepper Schwartz wrote about Gottman's novel and his findings, both agreeing beyond a shadow of a doubt that poor communication can break any couple. "[...] we've been studying relationships for more than 50 years combined, and we’ve found that no matter how you slice it, most of them fail because of poor communication."
There is another layer to that, though. The type of poor communication being performed also matters.
The Four Horsemen
In his book, Dr. Gottman identifies four types of problematic communication that can cause issues to arise. Among them, there is a top-ranked style that is most likely to dissolve any good will left within a couple, but let's talk about the other three first, as Gottman also notes that all four are worth considering when examining your own relationship.
The other three are stonewalling, defensiveness, and criticism. Any one of these, but especially a combination, can be an early indicator of problems in a partnership.
Stonewalling is a method of communication where one or both halves of a relationship respond to a problem with a lack of emotional investment or emotional response. This can look like ignoring one's requests or avoiding conversations altogether in favor of shutting the other person out.
This fosters an emotional disconnect where partners do not feel heard or understood. If one partner does not engage in communication, it can lead to increased tension and resentment between both people, as well as intrusive, negative thoughts in the person being ignored. To stonewall is to close yourself off from your partner entirely, and no one wants to date someone who's wholly emotionally unavailable.
Defensiveness in a relationship happens when one person quickly becomes defensive or evasive when another person expresses a criticism, disagreement, or feelings of dissatisfaction. Someone stuck in a defensive mindset may start blaming their partner for shared relationship struggles, denying responsibility, or attacking their partner in an attempt to protect their own feelings.
This can be hugely problematic because it leaves no room for understanding and creates an environment that fosters distress. It displays a motivation to sustain the power imbalance in the relationship, preventing their partner from feeling safe enough to bring up problems that need addressing.
Criticism often manifests as one person pointing out what the other could do better or where they have failed, expressing dissatisfaction with their partner's behavior. Criticism often leads to feelings of shame and worthlessness in the partner being criticized, especially when it's frequent, unwarranted, and unnecessary.
It can also erode feelings of trust and admiration that are necessary for a healthy relationship. You want to feel like your partner likes you, but with constant critiques, being thrown your way, that becomes harder and harder. Criticism can have the person receiving it feeling undervalued, which is no way to exist within a relationship.
The Gold Medal Goes To...
Finally, the number one form of communication that can almost guarantee relationship failure is contempt.
Contempt is sort of the ultimate form of toxic communication, as it contains elements of the previous three as well as its own unique traits. It's complex, not as straightforward as something like criticism, or distant like stonewalling. It's very involved and manipulative.
Contempt is when someone finds ways to assert themselves over their partner, often via covert and subtle means to their partner doesn't feel directly insulted. This can involve dismissing their partner's talking points or perspectives, assuring that they 'know better' than their partner and are smarter than them, or not showing interest in the things their partner enjoys. All of these things cause their partner to shrink themselves down.
Trying To Be The Best
It's no surprise that these behaviors cause a sense of strife within a relationship. These are all done so the partner expressing contempt feels like they're on top, like they're superior to those around them. They can keep their significant other under their thumb this way, satisfying their desire for control.
For the partner experiencing this sort of behavior from their partner, it's not uncommon for their self-esteem to be worn down under the abuse. It becomes a mental toll, feeling lesser than other people because of the way your significant other speaks to you. It's a complete breach of trust, of respect, and of love.
How To Avoid Contempt
In their writeup, Dr. Griffin and Dr. Schwartz name some ways to eliminate contempt in a relationship. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer lies in open communication that highlights the good in one another.
They share steps like immediately identifying any negative feelings that arise in a relationship so they can be dealt with swiftly and creating a "culture of appreciation" in which both members celebrate each others' accomplishments.
For those seeking extra advice to build a strong, lasting relationship, turn to a love expert today for the help you need.
No one deserves to be treated with contempt, especially by someone who's supposed to love you for who you are. If you notice this to be a growing problem, think to yourself, is this something you consider solvable? Is it worth living like this until it is? Or, do you see a better future for yourself elsewhere, a future where you're respected and treated fairly?