1. Harsh Startups
From the moment you begin a conversation with your partner, you’re immediately negative. You criticize, use sarcasm, and maybe even throw some biting words into the mix. This is referred to as a “harsh startup.” If any interaction begins like this, it will inevitably end the same way. Consequently, this leaves you and your partner feeling even worse than you did at the inception of the discussion, and most likely without any kind of resolution. To combat this tendency, talk to your partner about making a serious effort to toss some positivity into your daily ritual. Instead of beginning an interaction with a nasty edge, try to open with a compliment or something you appreciate about your partner. While this ugly habit may be difficult to break, if you both become more self-aware of your actions, positive change is possible.
2. Signs of the apocalypse
Possibly the most talked-about aspect of Gottman’s research are what he refers to as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They include:
- Criticizing: Constantly critiquing and putting down your partner. You turn every less-than perfect action (like forgetting to take out the trash) as a reflection of character.
- Contempt: Displaying an unfortunate combo of disgust and anger toward your significant other. You don’t respect your partner whatsoever and rather view yourself as superior.
- Defensiveness: You don’t take any responsibility for your contributions toward problems in your relationship. Rather, everything is your partner’s fault.
- Stonewalling: Completely withdrawing from any kind of conflict or serious discussion with your significant other, refusing to effectively communicate. This is by far the worst of the four horsemen behaviors, and a sure sign of relationship failure if the behavior continues.
The term “flooding” means that your partner’s negative actions, whether it’s criticism or defensiveness, is so overwhelming that you become paralyzed. You shut down emotionally and completely detach from the relationship because you simply cannot handle the toxicity. These feelings usually lead to even more contempt over time, and a quick deterioration of a relationship.
4. Body Language
5. Positive/Negative Balance
A combination of negative and positive is like the yin and yang of any healthy relationship. Negativity can play an important role in a relationship, such as calling out and eradicating interaction patterns that don’t work. But the key is balance. If constant negativity is keeping you and your partner from recovering from past fights, this is a recipe for disaster. Gottman’s magic ratio is 5:1. For every negative event, you need 5 positive events to restore balance and promote happiness. So if you find yourself in the negative territory too often, try to go out of your way to something nice for your partner. With a little effort, it’s only a matter of time before the balance is restored.
6. You can’t forgive and forget
Read more: cheatsheet