Ways to Damage Your Relationship or Marriage

John Gottman, a marriage and parenting researcher, has written about behaviors that are damaging to relationships, along with seven principles needed to make marriage work. The following are some of the habits and behaviors that Gottoman has identified as being hurtful. When you read the list, focus on any behaviors that you do within your own relationship, and avoid searching for how your partner is within the relationship. The more you are aware of your OWN behaviors, the easier it will be to stop them.

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Take a look at what John Gottman says can damage your relationship:

Harsh Start-up

You can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first 3 minutes. If the conversation starts out with harsh tone of voice, negative words, criticism, or sarcasm, you are probably headed for an argument.

The Four Horsemen:

  1. Criticism: Using negative words about your mate’s character/personality. When criticism becomes pervasive, it paves the way for the other horsemen. Criticism often takes the form of blame.
  2. Contempt: Sarcasm, cynicism, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, hostile humor. Contempt is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust.
  3. Defensiveness: Defending and explaining your position and behavior. Defensiveness is another way to blame your partner and not take responsibility.
  4. Stonewalling: Avoiding a fight, disengaging. This stops resolution of the problem. A “stonewaller” acts as though he or she doesn’t care.


This means that your spouse’s negativity is so overwhelming and so sudden that it leaves you shell-shocked. This feeling is often followed by stonewalling.

Body Language

Body language can be louder than words. This may include rolling eyes, arm crossing, lack of eye contact. Also, pay attention to blood pressure when feeling stressed.

Failed Repair

This is when the couple does not attempt to repair or is unsuccessful in the repair attempts.

Bad Memories

This includes: finding the past is difficult to remember and has faded away, memories of the negative, and forgetting the positive times together.

Call or text us at Estes Therapy

Call us at 619-558-0001 today to get started on the process. Trying to find out what might be some of the blocks keeping you from finding a partner can make a big difference.

Jennine Estes

Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA.