7 Communication No-Nos if You Want to Stay Married

This week we are studying the famous relationship expert, Dr. John M. Gottman.  In his New York Times Bestseller, "the Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work"  he says he can predict if a couple is going to divorce by how they speak to each other. I supposed he wanted to start off his book with these negative communication styles so a person can QUIT doing them ASAP.  

I have made a list with some of his communications styles we should avoid.  This is not all of them.  If you want to know all his ideas I would read his book.  It is insightful.

7 Communication No-Nos if You Want to stay Married.

1 - The Harsh Start-Up - Dr. Gottman says if a discussion starts out harshly it is not going to be a successful discussion. "Don't lead off a discussion with criticism, sarcasm, or any form of contempt." 

Dr. Gottman calls the next 4 on this list "the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" because if they are used often in your communication style they will be like a lethal injection to the marriage.

2 - Criticism - "Criticism is different than a complaint.  A complaint focuses on a specific behavior or event that upsets you.  A criticism is global and expresses negative feelings or opinions about the other person's character or personality."  EXAMPLES: "Why are you so stupid?"  "You never..." or "You always..." 

3 - Contempt - "Sarcasm and cynicism are forms of contempt; as well as name-calling, eye-rolling, mockery, and hostile humor.  Contempt rises from a sense of superiority over one's partner. It conveys disgust."

"Couples who are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illnesses (colds, flu, and so on) than other people." ~ Dr. Gottman

4 - Defensiveness -  "Research shows that this approach to a spouse on the attack rarely has the desired effect.  This is because defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner."
 EXAMPLES: "I would have had supper ready but you didn't get the items I needed from the shopping list I made you" or "I would have been home on time but I had to stop and get your groceries for you"

"People who stay married live four to eight years longer than people who don't." ~ Dr. Gottman

5 - Stonewalling - Is when a person disengages with the conversation.  It appears that they don't care, they may leave the room or turn on the T.V. right in the middle of your conversation.  "Research showS this behavior to be far more common among men in all kinds of marriages.  It takes time for the negativity created by the first three horsemen to become overwhelming enough that stonewalling becomes the understandable "out"."

The end of the 4 Horsemen

"Even happily married couples can have screaming matches - loud arguments don't necessarily harm a marriage." ~ Dr. Gottman

6 - Flooding - "Usually people stonewall as a protection against feeling psychologically and physically overwhelmed, a sensation called flooding.  It occurs when your spouse's negativity is so intense and sudden that it leaves you shell-shocked.  You feel so defenseless against this sniper attack that you learn to do anything to avoid a replay."

"Marriage's meltdown can be predicted by habitual harsh start-up and frequent flooding brought on by the relentless presence of the four horsemen during disagreements...  They usually co-exist in an unhappy marriage." ~ Dr. Gottman

7 - Failed Repair Attempts - Repair attempts save marriages.  This is when efforts are made to de-escalate the tension during a touchy discussion.  Someone says,"Let's take a break" or "Wait, I need to calm down" or one sticks their tongue out at the other, making them both laugh.  These are repair attempts. 
A failed repair attempt is when one person tries to smooth things over with a lighthearted act or statement and the other person just gets more angry.  The attempt to lighten the discussion has failed.  That is a failed repair attempt.  If repair attempts don't work, you are in trouble.

"In unhappy marriages, a feedback loop develops between the four horsemen and the failure of repair attempts.  The more contemptuous and defensive the couple are with each other, the more flooding occurs, and the harder it is to hear and respond to a repair attempt." ~ Dr. Gottman

"The presence of the four horsemen alone predicts divorce with an 82 percent accuracy rate.  But when you add in the failure of repair attempts, the accuracy rate reaches into the 90s." ~ Dr. Gottman

Now you know what not to do you in your marriage, you may be wondering what you should do.  Dr. Gottman says, "80 percent of divorced men and women said their marriages broke up because they gradually grew apart and lost a sense of closeness, or because they did not feel loved and appreciated."  He says being friends with your spouse is the key to staying married. 

"The determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple's friendship.  For men,the determining factor is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple's friendship.  So men and women come from the same planet after all." ~ Dr. Gottman

All quotes and ideas cited from:
Gottman, John M. Silver, Nan. The seven principles for making marriage work. Harmony Books. New York. 2nd edition. 2015. Chapter 1-3. 


  1. ThIs is very eye opening on what we shouldn't be doing in an argument.


Post a Comment

All comments are welcome and will be moderated before posting live, thank you.

Popular posts from this blog

Treating In-Laws like Family, not Out-Laws

Sex as God Intended It

United We Stand in Marriage, Families, Communites, the World, and with God