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The 4 Relationship Killers and Their Antidotes!

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

If you are looking for ways to improve your connection and communication in a relationship, here are the 4 major things to stay away from.

These 4 relationship killers come from the research lab at the University of Washington. Here is where Dr. John Gottman has been conducting research on relationship stability, satisfaction and longevity since the 70's! He found that there are 4 major errors that kill connection and communication.


Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling


This is really common for criticism to creep in when one partner is complaining about the other. It is okay to complain, but there is one key difference between complaining and criticizing. Complaining is talking about the other person's behavior that you do not like. It is also usually followed up with a specific request.

EX: Hey, I noticed the dishes were not done, can you make sure to do them before you come up to bed?

Criticism, on the other hand, attacks your partner's character as you are bringing something to their attention. It is also usually attached to an "always" or a "never."

EX: You never do the dishes. You are so terrible at housework.

The Antidote!

When you feel yourself wanting to criticize, take a moment to breathe, and think about how the message is going to come across. Are you going to be heard when you criticize? When you have this urge, use a soft start-up rather than a harsh start-up.

Use this formula!

I feel (emotion word) when (name the behavior your partner did) because (explain why you feel this way.) Can you (make a specific request)

EX: Hey, I get agitated and antsy when I walk into the kitchen and the dishes are not done on your night to do them. I cannot relax until the dishes are done and feel like I then have to do them on your night. Can you please clean the dishes before I get back down from putting the kids to sleep?





Hi, I’m Kristina Anzell, I am a Clinical Social Worker dedicated to providing compassionate and tailored mental health support for moms at all stages of motherhood. My mission is to empower you to thrive in your role as a mother while nurturing your own well-being. If you enjoyed this blog post, check out my blog here! If you want more information or are seeking treatment, feel free to reach out!

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