Depression has sunken in today. This is exactly what my boyfriend does when he's upset with me.... all of these tactics, that my therapist say border on verbal abuse.
Your Arguing Style Tells A Lot About The Future Of Your Relationship
What behaviors are most damaging to a relationship?
All couples have conflicts, but disagreement or fighting in and of itself isn’t predictive of divorce. What is most damaging, the researchers report, is the kind of arguing that includes:
Criticism ● Defensiveness ● Contempt ● Stonewalling
These negative ways of interacting are devastating to a relationship. They sabotage any attempts at constructive communication, erode positive feelings and result in both partners feeling alienated, rejected, frustrated, angry or unloved.
If your relationship is suffering due to these negative forms of communication, the information below can help you begin to learn how to change your arguing style to one that is more positive and healthy for your relationship:
● Criticism: Complaining to your partner is normal and healthy, however, the way you go about expressing these complaints is most important. The problem arises when complaints turn into criticisms. A complaint focuses on a specific behavior or situation. A criticism, however, attacks the personality or character of the person, usually with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong.
Example: “I was worried when you were late coming home and didn’t call me. I thought we had agreed that we would do that for each other” is a complaint. “You never think about how your behavior affects me. You just think about yourself all of the time” is a criticism.
Criticism uses phrases like: “You never…,” “You always…,” or “Why don’t you ever…?” Criticism inevitably puts people on the defensive, undermining the chance for effective communication and solving the problem at hand.
● Defensiveness: Defensiveness usually happens when we feel criticized or treated unfairly by our partner – whether or not that was his/her intent. We feel accused of something and think that if we tell our partner our excuse for doing what we did, he or she will back off. But the excuse just tells our partner that we haven’t considered anything he or she has said. Basically, by defending ourselves we are ignoring our partner.
Example: She: “Did you call Eric and Stacy today as you said you would to let them know that we are not coming tonight?” He: “I was just too busy today at work. You know how busy my schedule is. Why didn’t you just do it?” He not only responds defensively but turns the table and makes it her fault.
- Making excuses – “It’s not my fault…”
- Cross complaining – Meeting your partner’s complaint with a complaint of your own.
- Disagreeing and then cross-complaining – “That’s not true, you’re the one who…”
- Yes-butting – “Yes, but you’re the one who…”
- Repeating yourself without paying attention to what your partner is saying
“Defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner,” says renowned marriage expert John Gottman, Ph.D. “You’re saying, in effect, the problem isn’t me, it’s you.” As a result, the problem is not resolved and the conflict escalates further.
● Contempt: Contempt involves putting your partner down with insults, critical comments, verbal abuse and hostile body language with the intention to psychologically abuse him or her. It includes putdowns, name-calling, mocking, sarcasm, ridiculing, hostile humor, condescension, eye-rolling and sneering. “There’s something wrong with you” or “You are so selfish” are examples of contempt. Name calling like: “stupid,” “wimp,” “fat,” “ugly,” or “lazy” are also examples.
Contempt is extremely detrimental to a relationship, leaving the partner at whom it is directed feeling hurt, angry and extremely negative toward the partner who is hurling the insults and abuse.
● Stonewalling: When a partner becomes exhausted or overwhelmed by continuous criticism, defensiveness and contempt, stonewalling is often the next response. Stonewalling is withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. Examples of stonewalling include: silence, changing the subject, talking or muttering to ourselves or physically removing ourselves. Any form of disengagement can be stonewalling.
The stonewaller may think they are being neutral, but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection and/or smugness. Stonewalling solves nothing, but creates hard feelings and further damages the relationship.