Why Relationships Fall Apart


Before we cover mindful relationship habits and how to develop them, we believe it’s valuable to first understand why relationships begin to falter and even fall apart.

With a third to a half of all marriages ending in divorce (depending on a variety of factors, such as income level, education, etc.), and with over 41% of people reporting unhappiness in their marriages, it’s clear that most of us need better education about what it takes to maintain a happy relationship.

The sooner you learn how to be a more mindful partner and care for the relationship properly, the better chance you have of creating a connection that not only survives but also thrives. Young couples can save themselves years of distress by proactively taking measures to protect their relationship before the first signs of trouble erupt.

Sadly, there are no required courses in our education system teaching us how to behave and communicate in a love relationship. In fact, you must jump through more hoops to get a driver’s license than you do a marriage license. However, the impact of an unhappy or failed relationship has far-reaching consequences that impact a couple’s long-term health and happiness, not to mention the impact it has on children, friends, and extended family. Divorce and breakups take a tremendous emotional, financial, and even physical toll on everyone involved.

There are hundreds of reasons why relationships fail, including truly devastating reasons like infidelity, abuse, and addiction. But more often than not, relationships unravel due to lack of attention and effort.

Years of repeated bad habits and unconsciousness add up to a slow erosion of the love and intimacy that brought you together. Good couples find themselves in a slow and painful decline because they can’t seem to extricate themselves from destructive patterns, reactivity, and bad habits. Dr. John Gottman a renowned psychologist, and relationship researcher, has conducted extensive research on couples and why relationships fail. He has been able to predict whether a couple would divorce with over 90% accuracy based on six predictive factors.

 Engaging repeatedly in the bad habits involved in each of these factors will assuredly lead you down a path of unhappiness and disconnection from your partner. Let’s look at each of these factors and the related behaviors that can turn into destructive relationship habits.

 Predictive Factor #1: Poor Conflict


The way a couple communicates during times of conflict is a clear indicator of the potential success or failure of the relationship. When the conversation begins with criticism or sarcasm (which is a form of contempt), it sets the tone for the rest of the discussion. Gottman’s research shows that if a discussion begins with a harsh startup, it will nearly always end on a negative note.

In fact, 96% of the time, you can predict the outcome of a discussion based on just the first three minutes. If this harsh startup is a consistent pattern, it takes a serious toll on the marriage.

Predictive Factor #2: The Devastating Four Horsemen

There are four types of negative interactions that Gottman has identified as lethal to a close and mindful relationship. He calls them the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” They include criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling, and if they are regular visitors in your relationship, they spell real trouble.

Criticism is the first damaging behavior. As Barrie says in her book Write It Out, Don’t Fight It Out, “When you criticize your partner, you are basically suggesting that their personality or character is the problem. The problem isn’t the problem your spouse is the problem.” Criticism is different from making a complaint about your partner’s behavior. A complaint is an issue with the behavior, not the person.

 Contempt reveals your feelings of superiority over your partner—as though you are looking down on his or her character or personality. It shows up as sneering, sarcasm, cynicism, eye-rolling, name-calling, mockery, and hostile humor.

Defensiveness is a way of deflecting blame away from yourself and onto your partner (or someone else) by either counterattacking or whining and acting like an innocent victim.

Stonewalling allows you to shut down and avoid responding altogether, or you respond in monosyllables or curt replies.

These behaviors can devolve into habitual responses during conflict or even show up in day-to-day conversation. They can be devastating and break down all intimacy and trust in the relationship.

Predictive Factor #3: Flooding

Flooding is a heightened state of arousal and agitation a fight-or-flight response in reaction to the negative behaviors just outlined. These behaviors can feel so overwhelming and sudden that you become shell-shocked.

The breakdown of a relationship can be predicted by the combination of habitual harsh startups and frequent flooding, triggered by the regular presence of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Although each of these factors alone can predict divorce, they usually coexist in an unhappy marriage or love relationship.

Predictive Factor #4: Body Reactions to Flooding

Dr. Gottman monitored couples during a conflict discussion to check for bodily changes and saw how physically distressing flooding was making it impossible to work through conflict. During a flooding episode, the heart speeds up to more than 100 beats per minute, even as high as 165. Blood pressure increases and hormonal changes are triggered, including the secretion of adrenaline. These physical sensations make it.

Preview photo credit: pixabay
Based on materials from : relationshipandintimacy  and medium

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