Relationship Killers: What you’re Doing to Damage your Intimate Relationships beyond Repair

There’s an old saying that we most hurt the ones we love. Ever wonder why? Not only are the ones we love the most invested in us, but they are also those with whom we act out our hurt.

What are the ways in which we doom our closest relationships? Time identifies the research of Gottman and his “Four Horsemen” that suggest marriage breakup is looming:

  • Criticism– Complaints are fine. Criticism is more global — it attacks the person, not their behavior. They didn’t take out the garbage because they forgot, but because they’re a bad person.
  • Contempt– “…name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. In whatever form, contempt – the worst of the four horsemen – is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with him or her.”
  • Defensiveness– “…defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, ‘The problem isn’t me, it’s you.’ Defensiveness just escalates the conflict, which is why it’s so deadly.”
  • Stonewalling– Tuning out. Disengaging. This doesn’t just remove the person from the conflict; it ends up removing them, emotionally, from the relationship.


Gottman suggests that when you are engaging in any of these four behaviors, it isn’t long before a marriage begins to breakdown in ways that may make it irreparable. But if you can identify these behaviors in yourself early on, there is action that you can take the change them. Even the willingness to work on relationship damaging behaviors such as these can give life support to a failing marriage. More universally, these behaviors will damage other relationships, such as when parents act out with their children.

If you have trouble in your primary relationships, seek the help of a quality psychotherapist. You can have better relationships if you’re willing to work on your own behaviors.