0 Unhealthy Relationships Rev 081706 Gottman | Domestic Violence | Marriage

Unhealthy Couple Relationships

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
By John M. Gottman, Ph.D. and Nan Silver
1999 Three Rivers Press, New York
Promoting Child Welfare: Training Professionals to Support Healthy Marriages, Relationships and Families Project Syracuse University College of Human Services and Health Professions
Revised August 17, 2006

Project funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families

– Presence of pervasive negative thoughts about their marriage. – Physiological reactions (flooding). the four horsemen. and unwillingness to accept influence from partner. – The failure of their repair attempts. . • Prevalence of harsh start up.Unhealthy Relationships Signs and Symptoms You can see the emotional separation in – What couples actually say to each other.

. Each individual is trying to solve problems on their own. – Talking things over seems useless. – Loneliness has set in. – They start leading separate lives.“Some people leave a marriage by divorcing and others by leading separate. parallel lives” Four final stages that signal the ending of a relationship – Marital/relationship problems are seen as severe.

not in the arguing itself.Signs and Symptoms The Clues are in the Way they argue. – – – – – – Harsh Start-up The Four Horsemen Flooding Body Language and physiological response Failed Repair Attempts Bad and Deteriorating Memories .

First Sign: Harsh Startups A Harsh Start Up is Being Used When: • Discussions lead off with criticism and/or sarcasm (forms of contempt). . • Conversations start with blaming.

• Criticism • Contempt • Defensiveness • Stonewalling The frequency and intensity with which the couple uses these styles of relating makes them destructive and a sign of marital distress. . All couples use them from time to time.Second Sign: The Four Horsemen Negative interaction styles that are particularly destructive in couple relationships.

Horseman 1: Criticism Complaints about a person are common. There is a difference between a complaint and a criticism. far deadlier horsemen.” . What is wrong with you?” “Problem with criticism is when it is pervasive. it paves the way for the other. – Complaint = addresses a specific action Ex: “I’m angry that you didn’t sweep last night when it was your turn” – Criticism = more global and often attacks the person’s character Ex: : “Why are you so forgetful? I hate having to always sweep the floor for you.

etc. Belligerence. is a form of aggressive anger because it contains threats or provocation. mockery and hostile humor.” Contempt – the worst of the four horsemen –conveys disgust. a close cousin. . criticism. It is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about the other person.). eyerolling. name-calling. sneering. Types of Contempt: sarcasm. Contempt leads to more conflict rather than to reconciliation.Horseman 2: Contempt “Couples who are contemptuous of each other are more likely to get infectious illnesses (colds.

more contempt) Oliver: “I don’t always have a chance to look at my calendar during the day. Example: Dara: “Just like when I write stuff on your calendar it gets done?” (mocking him.” (Defensive) . Defensiveness escalates the conflict.Horseman 3: Defensiveness Rarely has the desired effect because it is really a way of blaming the partner.

Defensiveness. . and Contempt aren’t always used in a strict order or in isolation. Criticism. They function more like a relay team. handing the baton off to each other over and over again if the couple can’t put a stop to it.

disengages. It is more common for men to stonewall than women. Usually arrives later in the course of a marriage than the other three horsemen.Horseman 4: Stonewalling Horseman 4: Stonewalling Eventually one partner tunes out. “Avoiding a fight but also avoiding the relationship. .” One partner will look away or down without uttering a sound like an impassive stone wall.

Feel defenseless and learn to do anything to avoid it. and so sudden. Highest priority becomes personal protection. The method of protection is to disengage from the relationship. the it leaves the partner shell-shocked.Third Sign: Flooding Spouse’s negativity (often the 4 horsemen) is so overwhelming. .

Fourth Sign: Body Language Physically distressed when Flooded – heart speeds up. These physical sensations of feeling flooded make it impossible to have a productive. . Left with the most reflexive. problem-solving discussion. least sophisticated responses. sweating and hormone changes (including secretion of adrenaline which kicks in the fight or flight response). blood pressure rises.

“It’s a biological fact: Men are more easily overwhelmed by marital conflict than are their wives.” Physiological Differences between Genders The male cardiovascular system remains more reactive than the female and slower to recover from stress. . Ex: blood pressure will become more elevated and stay higher longer.

Because a wife is constitutionally better able to handle stress. she is more likely to bring up sensitive issues the husband will often avoid. .Gender Differences in bodily reactions influences processing Men have a greater tendency to have negative thoughts that maintain their distress and precipitate the 4 horsemen while women are more likely to have soothing thoughts and be able to be conciliatory.

Fifth Sign: Failed Repair Attempts Repair attempt is any statement or action – silly or otherwise – that prevents negativity from escalating out of control. They are the secret weapon of emotionally intelligent marriages. Failure to develop repair mechanisms or persistent use of ineffective repair mechanisms or lack of response to repair attempts signals distress . Flooding is thus prevented. . The quality of the friendship between partners (positive sentiment override) predicts that repair attempts will work.

They maintain distress by using a negative attributions model to assess partner during current events thereby minimizing positive feelings about the partner. . The couple rewrites its past.Sixth Sign: Bad Memories Negativity is generalized to the history of the relationship.

Chronic. Immediate escalated responses in reaction to low-intensity affect of partner. The underlying beliefs about the relationship are negative.Signs of a Distressed Marriage There is more negative then positive communication. as described. Couple heading for separation has an 8 negative to 1 positive ratio. diffuse physiological arousal and suppressed immunity. Failure of one partner to accept influence from the other. Stable marriages have a 1 to 5 (negative to positive) ratio during conflict and 1 to 20 in non-conflict situations. of ailing marriages. . Emotional disengagement. Presence of power and control issues. Presence of the six signs.

economic control. emotional abuse. The controlling partner will not accept influence from the other partner. assigning/withdrawing of “privileges”.Power and Control It is very unhealthy when one partner is motivated by the need to exert general control over the other and this need is pervasive within the relationship not isolate to specific events. That need can activate a range of power and control tactics including threats. isolation. sexual control and physical abuse. . there is a significant potential for domestic violence. When this occurs. using children to control partner.

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