Armony in health 24 August, 2017 Isabel Vallejo
John Gottman, a psychologist that specializes in personal relationships and the Director of the institute by the same name, conducts a study on couples.
This study led Gottman to the conclusion that, with a 90% accuracy rate, there are four signs or behaviors that can warn of a toxic romantic relationship. Also a researcher at the University of Washington, Gottman states that when couples separate, the problem does not lie within the conflicts themselves -as they are inevitable and common- but in the reactionary mechanisms that activate when problems arise. Also read: Enjoying life as a couple.
He explains that couples that split up tend to remain trapped in negative emotions, which lead to the use of inefficient communication mechanisms that cannot resolve or accept a situation.
After studying 30,000 couples over the last 40 years, Gottman found that relationships can be prevented from ending if people are aware of the following four warnings signs, known as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” They include:
- Defensiveness. This implies taking on a defensive attitude after feeling attacked in a way that denies one’s responsibility in the problem and does not involve learning or changing anything to resolve problems.
- This brings disrespectful attitudes towards the other, as the other is believed to have been the one to cause the problems.
- Criticism. When criticism is not constructive, this can affect the nucleus of the relationship and trust. Destructive criticism is a disrespectful way of complaining about something the other person does or is a way of showing disagreement.
- Gottman explains that it is important to voice a complaint and say things how they are, but without intending to cause harm.
- Contempt. This is when both people in the relationship have aggressive attitudes and a lack of respect towards each other. This includes saying hurtful words, insulting, threatening, wrongdoing, mocking and shaming each other. Gottman found that couples that do not value one another are more likely to suffer from infectious diseases such as colds, as the negative emotions that are generated from this weaken their immune systems.
- Stonewalling. When someone is indifferent to avoid having to talk about their issues, this implies they are distancing and disconnecting themselves from the relationship. This is a negative strategy because it pulls people away from the solution and it assumes that there are no sentimental conflicts. Signs of this include being silent, unexpressive, avoidant or showing passive body language.