Marriage Problems

Four Key Patterns that Destroy Oneness in Marriage


Research shows that the presence of certain negative patterns can destroy a relationship.  In other words, just a few negatives in marriage can wear away dozens of positives. So, what are the patterns that can destroy your marriage?  Well, in their book, Fighting for Your Marriage, Markman, Stanley and Blumberg share these four things.

1. Escalation. Escalation occurs when partners respond back and forth negatively to each other, continually upping the ante so the conversation gets more and more hostile. The key to diffusing a potentially volatile conversation is to try softening your tone.  This takes practice and humility.  Because even if the other person is wrong or is being mean-spirited, you can still be the one to turn the tide of the conversation.

2. Invalidation. Invalidation is a pattern in which one partner subtly or directly puts down the thoughts, feelings, or character of the other.  Using words like “always” and “never” in your interactions with your spouse is a recipe for conflict.  Very few things are absolute, so use those words carefully.  As a partner to your spouse, you know the things that cause them sensitivity and pain.  Don’t use that knowledge shared with you in vulnerability and trust as a weapon to tear down the person you love.

3. Negative Interpretations:  When Perception is Worse than Reality. Negative interpretations occur when one partner consistently believes that the motives of the other are more negative than is really the case. For example, you ask your husband when he is going to cut the grass.  He gets upset because he thinks what you’re really saying is, “You never do anything around here.  Are you ever going to cut the grass?”  Negative interpretation is a form of attempted mind reading.  You think you know what your partner is thinking.

4. Withdrawal and Avoidance. Withdrawal and avoidance are where one partner shows an unwillingness to get into or stay with important discussions. Withdrawal can be as obvious as getting up and leaving the room or as subtle as tuning out during an argument.

There is usually a pattern to this dynamic. One person is the pursuer, “Let’s talk about this now!” And the other is the withdrawer, “Stop talking to me.” Try to break this pattern. If the withdrawer makes his move to leave, calmly release them. Then, when things have quieted down, ask when you can set aside a time to discuss the matter. This takes the immediate pressure off the withdrawer and gives them time to gather their thoughts.  On the flip side, the withdrawer should tell the pursuer they need some time alone, but set a time to talk later before they excuse themselves.

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