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How to kill your relationship

By Steve Korver December 31, 02:04 pm
Love isn’t always a box of chocolates. It’s quite normal for couples to fight. It's how they fight that can truly doom their relationship.

It’s all in the story

The author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman, has been a marriage researcher and counsellor for over 40 years.

Gottman is famous for being able to listen to a couple for five minutes and then knowing, with over 90 per cent certainty, whether their relationship will survive. He does this by asking them to tell their story.

'Either they emphasise their good times and make light of the rough spots, or they accentuate their failures and not their successes. Likewise, they either underscore their partner's positive traits in favour of their more annoying characteristics (cherishing), or they do the opposite (trashing),' as Gottman’s technique is described in ‘The underrated skill that can benefit every area of your life’.

Couples who cherish each other are better able to deal with each other’s more trash-able aspects.

They have found ways to cope and not waste time and energy on something that will never be resolved. And such an approach results in better health, happiness, and sex.

The Four Horsemen

Gottman has also identified 'Four Horsemen' – ways of fighting – that spell relationship apocalypse: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling, according to ‘What are the four things that kill relationships?

I will explain these approaches by speaking directly to you, dear reader.

Dear reader, the reason you will click away from this column is not because you are tired or distracted by more pressing matters. No. The reason you will click away is because of a fundamental flaw in your personality. You are simply a bad person. (Criticism)

In fact, you are a loser. A mindless shit with your head firmly wedged up your own ass. And that’s not the only reason why you disgust me. (Contempt)

But hey, your problems are your problems. There’s nothing to be done about them without you recognizing them. You’re just blind to the truth. (Defensiveness)

Anyway, dear reader, it’s time to ignore you and walk away. As an emotional vampire sucking all the good bits out of my soul, you are simply not worth my attention. (Stonewalling)

You nag, I withdraw

Okay, I’m back!

Not just because I could have chosen to illustrate the Four Horsemen in a more diplomatic way. For example, I could have used one of Gottman’s suggested techniques: using the word 'I' instead of 'YOU' so I would come across as less aggressive.

But also because, stonewalling – retreating to avoid conflict – turns out to be the most destructive of the Four Horsemen, according to ‘Why the way you fight can threaten your relationship’.

'The silent treatment is akin to the ‘demand-withdraw’ pattern many researchers have identified, in which one partner nags or confronts, and the other pulls away. A review of 74 studies that included more than 14,000 participants suggests that the demand-withdraw pattern is one of the most damaging types of conflict – and a major predictor of divorce.'

So it seems that fighting is not only destructive, but it can also be a sign that a couple still cares.

Don’t get ‘hangry’, get a Cadbury

Perhaps Gottman is just making things overly-complicated. Especially if we are to believe ‘Lashing out at your spouse? Check your blood sugar’.

According to a recent study, people with low blood sugar are more likely to stick more pins into a voodoo doll representing their partner – even when they are essentially satisfied in their relationship.

Hence the slang: 'hangry' (hungry + angry).

So perhaps the best way to maintain relationship harmony is to just share a Cadbury, hit the bedroom and make sweet, sweet love.

How do you deal with conflict in your relationship? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on Love Matters Naija and Love Matters Kenya.

Did you learn something new?

nicholas ruiga
Thu, 09/25/2014 - 01:50 pm
am now 30years i got maried 6years back, we have been blessed with two kids, my marringe has been wonderfull athough we had so many challeges ,now it has come a time that my wife wants to go apart each is own way ; she has left our kids to my parents end gone to seak for job . please give me an advice
Hi Nicholas, have you talked to her about this? Do you think the two of you together could find a solution to make this work again? It's great that she wants to be independent, but maybe you can still find a way to make your relationship work, together. Good luck!
Hi Winfred, have you check out our section on love and relationships? You'll find lots of handy tips and tricks there:
Lizzer Kibah
Thu, 09/25/2014 - 03:20 pm
My boyfriend whom we are almost marrying, 6yrs r/ship, has pregnanted another girl and abort for her so that i can not know bt i cam to know through that girl who insults mi n tel mi whats going on. He clain to lov mi stil, should we continue???
Hi Lizzer, so sorry to hear you are going through a difficult time. We really can't tell you what to do. You need to decide that for yourself. Think about what you want. Do you think you can trust him again? Can you forgive him? I also suggest you sit down with him and talk about what happened, and how he sees your future together. Don't take it lightly and do take your time before you make a decision.
Thu, 09/25/2014 - 04:22 pm
my r/ship has problem my girlf told me after nine months of being happly together and said her heart belongs to someone else and she is not gonna marry me. but she stile do love or may be i wil get a chance of marrying her. am total confused ans i dont know what to do.
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