Relationship Issues Humans are designed to love. We believe that intimate engagement between partners is the golden road to personal growth and development. We are committed to helping you achieve peace and life satisfaction in your relationships
FOUR PREDICTORS OF RELATIONSHIP DISTRESS
In whatever stage of a relationship you find yourself, from the early stages of dating and courtship, through premarital engagement, into and through the different stages of a marital relationship, these four communication styles have been identified and researched by Dr. John Gottman, Ph.D. as key predictors for success or failure in any relationship.
Dr. Paul Standal finds that intervening with troubled couples who are habituated to the use of one or more of these styles of communication is a key first step in helping them get back into a more loving and satisfying transaction of positive regard with their partner. In short, don’t ask what your marriage can do for you, but what you can do for your marriage.
Four Predictors of Troubled Couples
Criticism and Scanning for Mistakes
Criticism, as well as the habit of playing the game of “gotcha” with others, can be fueled by unaddressed resentments or needs to retaliate. They can be seen as a protest or plea for a change of a behavior or behaviors that are in violation of the “criticizer’s” needs, goals or values. The Gotcha game invariably leads to passive aggressive retaliation which never ends well. Being criticized can be held in several ways. If it is done well, it can be taken as a non-judgmental observation of one’s behavior that, if changed, will make a good thing better. On the other hand it can be taken as a way of diminishing or attacking one’s self-esteem or self-worth. Learning to give and receive feedback using a soft approach is in Dr. Paul Standal’s relationship coaching.
Being overly defensive is the other side of criticism. Being defensive is a way of protecting one’s self-esteem or self-worth from what we may ascribe as a damaging attack by another. An unwillingness to be influenced by a partner’s requests is, of course, a relative situation. In some cases we need to legitimately defend our rights and responsibilities and sense of self in an assertive manner. Being overly defensive seems to be fueled by psychological vulnerability that overrides our ability to take an honest look at one’s responsibilities in any relational interaction. Learning to reduce defensiveness in order to communicate, solve problems, resolve conflict or negotiate solutions is also an important area of Dr. Standal’s relationship coaching.
Contempt and Invalidation
Invalidation and contemptuousness in a relationship are perhaps the most insidious types of “red flags” in a relationship.
Invalidation is to reject, ignore, mock, tease, judge, or diminish someone’s feelings. Contempt goes beyond mere rejection by implying not only that your feelings are disapproved of, but that your personal attributes are fundamentally abnormal or damaged. Psychological invalidation and contemptuousness towards a partner are the most toxic forms of interaction in a relationship and are the greatest predictors of divorce and relationship termination. They are the most counterproductive ways to try to manage emotions. They kill trust, confidence, creativity, mutual respect and individuality. Both contempt and invalidation are attempts to control in a relationship. Contempt is an attempt to diminish another’s sense of self by attacking their sense of self-worth. The more we trust or depend on the other’s positive regard, the greater the damage to one’s self-worth.
Examples of Being Invalidated
• We are told we shouldn’t feel the way we feel • We are dictated not to feel the way we feel • We are told we are too sensitive, too “dramatic” • We are ignored • We are judged • We are led to believe there is something wrong with us for feeling how we feel
Examples of Contemptuous Behavior
• Being told you are stupid • Being told you are lazy • Being told you are crazy • Being told you are a terrible mother/father
Dr. Standal sees stonewalling as a way of modulating hyper-arousal. When an individual is unable to modulate or accommodate feelings, the internal circuit breaker is engaged. Stonewalling is really an effort to defend against being overwhelmed by feelings. Both men and women use this self-defense strategy, but Dr. Standal has found men to do this most often. Men in general have been given the message that real or strong men are stoic and do not show feelings. Showing feelings shows a vulnerability or weakness. Dr. Standal also surmises that stonewalling may have been an evolutionary strategy men developed to defend against hurting their partner physically.
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