RISING ABOVE: Relationship Problems

Rising Above Relationship Problems

Too Much Criticism Kills Relationships

By Steve B. Reed, LPC, LMSW, LMFT

A relationship can survive arguments, some lack of compatibility, even interference from in-laws and disputes over money–But not critical partners.

In the book “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail,” John Gottman reveals a key finding of his 20-year study of hundreds of couples: The most injurious thing to a relationship may be unrelenting disapproval.  Negativity is one of the most reliable predictors of divorce.  Being subjected to frequent criticism ultimately erodes tender feelings and leads to contempt, defensiveness, emotional withdrawal and divorce.

But on the other hand, stable healthy relationships display an abundance of positive comments and interactions.  Such exchanges as “I enjoy being with you” or doing something that shows thoughtfulness for your partner would qualify.  If the exchange of positive strokes out number the negative strokes five-to-one, then Gottman suggests that it could make the relationship divorce-proof.  Although some relationships may be fatally flawed, the unwillingness or inability to communicate expressions of gratitude or optimism presents a great problem to all relationships.

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