Doing Life Together

bed-1822497_1920Are you growing apart? There are markers to indicate if this is the case. I recently watched a couple at a restaurant. They never spoke or interacted. One of them was on texting through most of the dinner. They looked extremely unhappy, bored and distance. How do couples get to this stage of emotional distance? Is there a path to growing apart?

The work of John Gottman in the Love Lab at the University of Washington has informed the path to growing apart. Gottman calls this path the road to ruin, the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. These are the four attitudes that most predict divorce and distance. The pattern plays out with about 94% accuracy so pay attention!

1. Criticism: In couple relationships, this is the first stage of growing part. It involves  personal attack of your partner’s character or personality. “You never…, he doesn’t…, she can’t…” These are not statements of concern, rather criticisms of the person’s being.

2. Contempt: This becomes even more personal. It is a  personal attack of your partner’s sense of self. This includes insults and psychological abuse. It is often seen in the rolling of the eyes and mockery. When contempt is present, relationships go downhill. It pushes couples to grow apart. Living with someone who feels contempt for you, leads to the next attitude–defensiveness.

3. Defensiveness: Because of criticism and contempt, couples play the victim and push off attack. They make excuses and whine about the other person, etc. Defending yourself takes a lot of energy and doesn’t lead to intimacy or being known by the other.

4. Stonewalling: All of the above end in the erection of a stone wall and withdrawing. It is at this stage that couples realize they have grown apart and consider ending the relationship. They are distant and cold. They is only ice no fire! And they sit at dinner with no conversation, distracted by technology and possible thinking how much better their life could be with someone else.

If you recognize this path towards growing apart, please find a couples’ therapist as we know how to reverse this. There is a way to bring back intimacy if you are willing to get help and work on these attitudes. The first step is to recognize the road you have travelled that is leading you to feel distant. Once you gain self-awareness, begin to work on reversing this pattern.