4 Behaviors That Should Be Avoided by Those Who Don’t Want a Divorce

The four communication habits that increase the likelihood of divorce are called The Four Horsemen. They are criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt. These behaviors were researched by a psychologist and renowned marriage researcher John Gottman, Ph.D.

4 Behaviors That Should Be Avoided by Those Who Don’t Want a DivorceGottman named these four communication habits after the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the Bible’s New Testament.

1. Criticism

Criticism is noticing a problem within your life or the relationship and turning it into a discussion of your partner’s character flaws. Some indications of using criticism are saying the words “always” or “never” when describing the actions of the lack of actions of your partner. Criticism is different from complaining. Complaining is a healthy aspect of a relationship—if no one complains, there will be a lot of repressed resentment.


Complaint: I am frustrated to come back home from work to a sink full of dishes. Criticism: You don’t care how tired I am, and you always leave the dishes in the sink.

The antidote

When you cover unmet needs with criticism, you are even less likely to have them met by your partner. Instead of criticism, try a gentle startup so that the discussion doesn’t lead to divorce. It sounds like:

  • Expressing what you noticed
  • Sharing your feelings
  • Stating your need

Example: “When I see the dishes in the sink after I come home from work (what you noticed), I feel so frustrated (sharing your feelings). I need to walk into an orderly environment. (what you need).”

Dirty dishes2. Defensiveness

Defensiveness is a reaction to criticism and an early warning for the likelihood of divorce. The criticism may be there or it may be a projection. Defensive people might:

  • Overexplain: I wanted to wash the dishes, but there was no detergent…”
  • Take on a victim mentality: “You are always so mean to me!”
  • Counter-criticize: “I will do the dishes when you take care of the lawn that you are always ignoring
  • Use “but”: “I know the dishes are not washed, but can’t you just ignore it for tonight?”

There is a time and a place to state your point of view, but it’s not usually in the immediate moment when someone makes a request. This is the time when your position is less likely to be heard.

The antidote:

Try taking responsibility for your part, even if you believe you only own a small bit of the issue. It can be hard to admit, but it’s important to do it if you don’t want a divorce: Example: “You’re right the dishes are a mess (validation). I didn’t do them although I said I would.”

3. Stonewalling

The person experiencing the stonewalling might think their partner doesn’t care about them. Their partner looks away, remains silent through most of the conversation, maybe even crossing arms on their chest.

StonewallingFor the person stonewalling, they feel physiological flooding. The latter happens when the body detects a threat. In conflict, sometimes our bodies will detect it as any other threat, releasing stress hormones, and experiencing a racing heart. The parts of our brain responsible for relational behaviors goes off. It is replaced by survival instincts—freezing, fleeing, or fighting, losing our relational instincts, like problem-solving, humor, and affection.

The antidote:

When they notice that flooding is present, the partners should try to take a break from the conversation. The stonewalling person needs to work toward self-soothing. It takes about 20 minutes for the stress hormones to exit the bloodstream. During the break, the flooded party can:

  • Breathe deep
  • Go on a walk
  • Read, paint, etc.
  • Exercise

If you want to self-soothe, you need space from the conflict, so try not to continue to think about it, write about it, or call your best friend to talk about it. Then, the person who took the break must come back to the conversation when calm.

4. Contempt Is The Biggest Warning of Divorce

According to Gottman’s research, contempt is the biggest sign of divorce. It has also been connected to health issues for the partner the contempt is directed toward, including a lower immune system. Contempt is supercharged criticism because it takes a position of superiority. It is expressing discontent by utilizing shame and mean-spirited sarcasm to put someone down. You can notice it even on the face of the person expressing it.

Example: “Oh, of course, I walk into a filthy house after a long day. What else would I expect from someone like you? I should have known when I met your family how lazy you’d be.”

The antidote:

Rather than utilizing contempt, you’ll need to build new communication skills to discuss your upset feelings. Learn to talk about yourself, and not the other person when in conflict. The ultimate goal is to use gentle startup (see criticism above). At first, however, you might just focus on narrating your inner world instead of attacking the other person. You may say to them that you feel angry and want to say offensive things to them but you know it won’t go well. You must also state you need both of you to figure out how to fix this. Notice what your partner is doing right and tell it to them as often as you can. This is called a culture of appreciation, and it can drive divorce away.

10 New Uses for Things Most People Simply Toss in the Trash

If you’re the kind of person that wants to do their bit to save the planet, then you’ve probably already made a few changes in your life to make it more sustainable. But what if we told you that the biggest change you could make is lying in your trash can? One man’s trash really is another man’s treasure! 

10 New Uses for Things Most People Simply Throw Away

Ketchup Bottle

Do you love pancakes? Do you love ketchup? Well, don’t mix them together, but you can use an old ketchup bottle to store your pancake batter. 

Disposable Straws

You shouldn’t be buying disposable straws, but if you find one lying around your house, use it to keep your necklaces untangled. 

Old T-Shirt

Old T-shirts can come in pretty handy if you don’t throw them out, as you can transform them into an epic rug for your beautiful home. 

10 New Uses for Things Most People Simply Throw Away

The Newspaper 

If you just throw out your newspaper after reading it, why not turn it into a DIY gift bag instead? It looks totally awesome. 

Broken China

If you break your favorite china mug or dish, never fear. You can simply use the pieces to create mosaic artwork on your furniture. 

Extra Buttons

Never known what to do with the extra buttons that come with your clothing? Utilize the holes in the buttons to keep your earrings together. 

10 New Uses for Things Most People Simply Throw Away

Baby Food Jars

Baby food jars seem to take up a huge amount of space in your trash can, but did you know that you can actually use them to grow your own herbs?

Egg Carton 

Why would you splash the cash on a fancy-schmancy cupcake holder or box when you could just use an empty egg carton instead? 

Wine Corks

Wine corks don’t need to go straight in the trash, as they can make the coolest keychains. 

10 New Uses for Things Most People Simply Throw Away

Cereal Boxes

Once you’ve eaten your cereal, repurpose the box to create a storage box that can stick to your refrigerator with magnets.  

The options are endless!