“It’s Not What You Say. It’s How You Say It.”

Certain negative communication styles are so lethal to a relationship that Dr. John Gottman calls them the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’. They predict relationship failure with over 90% accuracy if the behaviors aren’t changed.

The Four Ways to Destroy Any Relationship according to Gottman

⚡️criticism –

” You could have done it better. ” When ever we forget that the other person probably has a reason (that is valid by the way), for their behavior, we potentially damage our relationships instantly.

⚡️contempt-

Using body language that will be interpreted as superiority, dismissal, or a lack of respect.

⚡️defensiveness-

When we respond to another with: “Yah?… but you…” I like to help my clients practice taking turns when it gets this ugly. For example, “I want to hear you, but can you hear what I’m saying first?” (Since I brought up an issue?)

⚡️stonewalling-

When we delay a positive response to a request.

When you forget what matters

Marriages struggle for lots of reasons, but complacency can be especially poisonous. When you take your spouse for granted you’re taking a big risk. Our desire to matter to another is powerful. There is no better feeling than when you make yourself vulnerable to a loved one and they handle you with care.

Thereverse is also true. When you go out on a limb to show love and your spouse takes that love for granted – that hurts. This kind of hurt can lead to a breakup.

Body language as well as the tone of your voice are important. (NOTE: That’s why it’s a bad idea to have important conversations via text messages or email) Imagine your partner asking, “when will you be home?” with a smile and a lilt in his/her voice. Now imagine the same question asked with a scowl and a sigh. Sometimes the words you say have little to do with the message you’re sending. * Hence, avoid texting if you want to have clear communication.

If you want to save your marriage from the “4 Horseman of the Apocalypse”, then you need to pay attention to how you respond to your partner, and how you let them know what your needs and desires are.

Remedies to negativity

1. “It means a lot to me”

People want to live meaningful lives. We want to make a difference at our job, in our community, at our church, in our families, and to our friends. We want to matter. That’s why you feel awesome when your friend or partner says to you, “It means a lot to me when you …” The clarity is magnetic.

Learn to ask for what you want. Otherwise you may be unconsciously expecting magic from the other, i.e., “read my mind if you really care…” Such myths are guaranteed to hurt your relationship.

2. Learn to Speak Responsibly

You can banish your criticism by talking about your feelings using “I-statements” and expressing positive needs. I-statements are best explained in contrast to “you-statements”. Observe: “You are never home on time”. This is a ‘you’- statement, and feels like an attack. Typically, when we feel attacked, our defense-mechanisms kick in big time! True, it might be an exasperation we are stating, but communication experts will tell you – this statement has little hope for a good outcome.

Why? Because “you” statements assume expertise about the other. And here is a key: The only person you can be an expert on is yourself, which is a full time job for all of us! Using “I” statements is more honest, and doesn’t feel so much like an attack. “I feel overwhelmed when you aren’t home on time because I look forward to your help with the kids.” This is an I-statement. It communicates the same thing that the you-statement attempts to accomplish, but in a way that is more likely to be accepted and acted upon.

Variations of “it means a lot to me” are perfect follow-ups to I-statements. For example, you could express your desire for your spouse to be home on time in the form of a request like this: “It would mean a lot to me if you were home in time to help with the kids so I can make dinner.” It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Imagine your spouse asking, “when will you be home?” with a smile and a lilt in his voice. Now imagine the same question asked with a scowl and a sigh.

Sometimes the words you say have little to do with the message you’re sending. It’s important to keep in mind when you are trying to use “it means a lot to me“, the words are useless if they aren’t said correctly. In other words, if I’m also angry when I say it, that will be what the other picks up.

Nobody’s perfect. Practice makes progress!

If you want to save your marriage from complacency, negativity, and monotony then you need to practice.

*Practice showing gratitude:

“It meant a lot to me when you listened to me talk about my frustrating day.” *Practice taking responsibility:

“I can see that what I said made you upset. You mean so much to me. It wasn’t my intention. I’m so sorry.” *Practice assertiveness: “It would mean a lot to me if you would take out the trash.”

The more you practice, the more progress you’ll make.

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