According to Dr John Gottman, a specialist in marital stability and divorce prediction, there are certain communication styles or qualities that can indicate that a couple is headed for a break up. He has identified the four major ones as criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
Criticism: The Merriam Webster dictionary defines criticism as “the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing.”
In most cases, we have no problem with the content of what is communicated; what we are opposed to is how it is communicated.
Communicating faults requires grace and tact, and a huge dose of sensitivity. Choice of words, time and place are also important, as are the facial expressions which communicate the feelings in the words.
Defensiveness: This is when people respond to everything by jumping into their armour and getting ready for a fight. It might be due to constantly being accused of something (or things) and therefore forming an opinion that becomes the armour.
Contempt: The term in my local tongue that reflects contempt is the same word used to refer to the feeling one gets before vomiting.
That I think captures why contempt is such a deal breaker. Gottman defines it as “treating others with disrespect, mocking them with sarcasm, ridicule, name-calling, mimicking, and/or body language such as eye-rolling.” In the end, the target of the contempt is made to feel worthless, like something that really stinks in the eyes of the other person.
Contempt stings deep when it comes from the one you love, and few relationships can survive it.
Stone walling: In relationships, stone walling is when someone shuts him/herself in and refuses to engage in any conversation with their spouse.
This might be due to other problems in the relationships, but in the end, it becomes the source of a problem that can easily lead to a breakdown of the relationship.
So, what is the way forward? Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! That is what keeps a relationship going. Search yourself and see whether you have placed these barriers, and then work towards getting rid of them if you want a happy relationship.
This article was first published in Daily Nation