Relationships are hard sometimes, whether they are friendships or were once and could again be, loving partnerships and marriages.
There could be many reasons for your relationship to be struggling and it is common that even within the most balanced relationship for fault to be found.
Especially in today’s stress filled, fast paced life, when it may seem as though you don’t have time for yourself let alone your relationship.
A small example of some of what you may be experiencing within your relationship could be;
- You may be feeling resentful and as though it’s you that does ‘everything’ and your partner that does ‘nothing’
- You may feel insecure and as though there is inequality in your relationship financially or for another reason
- It may also be that one person in the relationship has had an affair
- It could be that you feel unseen in the relationship and undervalued
- One person in the relationship looks at pornographic material continuously
- Addiction of some kind is experienced with one or both people within your relationship
If one or some of the above resonate, have you noticed yourself and your partner becoming stuck in repetitive patterns of unconstructive behaviour to deal with the problems within your relationship? Or have noticed yourself having conversations with your partner in a more critical manner than usual?
If you are reading this page, then please continue to see if what I share with you and call ‘Modes of Negative Communication’ makes sense and gives you any insight into where your relationship may be right now.
Partly taken from what Dr John Gottman dubbed as “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”, the next few paragraphs may seem familiar if how you are communicating within your relationship is in a negative manner.
Neither person may feel understood or heard.
If you criticise your partner, you are potentially implying that there is something wrong with them. Using the accusing (almost finger pointing) word ‘You’ in-front of ‘never’ or ‘always’ for example, could lead your partner to feel under attack and criticised, causing them to respond to you defensively. This can set up a negative repetitive behavioural pattern between you, where one or both people feels bad about themselves.
“The antidote to criticism is to make a direct complaint that is not a global attack on your partner’s personality”.
It is hard when you feel as though you are being criticised by your partner, however defensiveness is not the only method of communication in retaliation, because it will ‘fuel the fire’ toward further negativity.
Being defensive is a negative way for each person not to take responsibility for their actions or part of what may be going wrong in the relationship, and ‘finger pointing’ in a verbally defensive way can become a continuous mode of negative communication between both parties unless recognised.
“When you attempt to defend yourself from a perceived attack with a counter complaint you are being defensive”. So accusing your partner back (finger pointing) is another form of defence, as is being ‘victim like’, because this invites persecution and or irritation in return.
“The antidote to defensiveness is to try to hear your partner’s complaint and to take some responsibility for the problem”.
“Of all the horsemen, contempt is the most serious”.
Being contemptuous is when a verbal or nonverbal statement or behaviour puts you on a higher ground than your partner. Making fun of your partner, mocking them, jeering or calling them names, sneering in disgust and rolling your eyes are all examples of contempt.
Treating your partner like this and ‘putting them down’ will destroy any fondness, love and admiration you have previously experienced
“The antidote to contempt is to lower your tolerance for contemptuous statements and behaviors and to actively work on building a culture of appreciation in the relationship”.
Is removing contempt easy? No.
Can it be done? Yes.
Couples Relationship Therapy works towards reducing, repairing and eliminating contemptuous exchanges.
Is literally what the word describes, when a person withdraws from listening to the conversation, seeming to emotionally ‘shut down’. They may even choose to remove themselves physically from the room entirely.
Statistics show that in relationships 80% of Stonewallers are men, although both parties can Stonewall effectively. In most instances Stonewalling in men is when they feel overwhelmed and unable to regulate their emotions, so they use this method of ‘shutting down’ to remove themselves in order to gain breathing space. However if you are a woman on the receiving end of being Stonewalled you may well feel unheard, dismissed and as though your partner doesn’t care enough to talk about the problem. This negative behaviour can set up a vicious cycle with one person demanding to talk and the other looking to escape.
“The antidote is to learn to identify the signs that you or your partner is starting to feel emotionally overwhelmed and to agree together to take a break. If the problem still needs to be discussed then pick it up when you are calmer”.
If you are experiencing relationship difficulties and this has lead you to finding yourself being or feeling continuously defensive, or showing contempt towards your partner, this could be indicative of an underlying problem which needs addressing sooner rather than later.
In Couples Relationship Therapy we will aim break through the conflict you are experiencing, discussing whether you believe your interactions between yourselves to be healthy or unhealthy.
We would then look to discuss different and more effective ways for you to communicate with each other, providing you both with insight into how to talk and work through your problems.
Using this method of working towards relearning how to have open communication between you enables problems to be worked through in a more balanced, calm and constructive way.
The idea also being to have an outcome where you will be able repair your negative arguments, feel closer to each other and be able to communicate more effectively with each other for your long-term benefit, even if you have decided this is the end of your relationship altogether.