People get divorced for all kinds of different reasons. More often than not, it’s the little things that add up and lead to the decline of the relationship. According to experts, most couples that get divorced have a few silent relationship killers in common.
According to Dr. John Gottman, couples are pretty much doomed to fail if they have any of the following four traits: stonewalling, sarcasm, contempt and criticism. He called these “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Out of the four, Dr. Gottman identified contempt as the number one predictor of divorce.
While licensed professional counselor, E.J. Smith, tells Bustle that the other three “horsemen” can also be problematic, contempt is by far the most damaging. “When people start to look at their spouse with contempt or resentment, it colors the lens through which we see, observe and interpret our spouse,” Smith says. “Its presence undermines the desire to continue to work at our relationships. Even gestures and behaviors that could be seen as positive can be twisted in such a way that they’re seen as negative.”
Unlike major things like cheating, these types of relationship ruiners aren’t easy to spot. It’s important to be aware of them before it’s too late to do anything about it. So here are some silent relationship killers that almost always leads to divorce, according to experts.
1. Conflict Avoidance
PhD, clinician and owner of Tech Talk Therapy, tells Bustle, “Avoiding conflict is a silent relationship killer because it prevents the opportunity for addressing conflict to take place.” When you aren’t addressing conflicts, you’re allowing the negativity to fester. The important thing here is to learn how to deal with conflict in the right way. “Not learning these skills is a sure way kill your relationship silently,” she says.
2. Invalidating Emotions
This is a tough one to avoid because it sometimes happens without you realizing it. For instance, if your partner says they’re cold but you aren’t, it’s easy to say, “It’s not that cold” without thinking anything of it. But little offhanded remarks like this can add up. As Dr. Omari says, you may not mean to be offensive. But if your partner sees it that way, it’s going to be a problem. “When a person feels invalidated, they often feel disconnected and unheard,” she says. “These two characteristics combined, will definitely work to deteriorate a relationship quickly.”
3. Unresolved Trauma
Everyone enters into a relationship with baggage. But failing to deal with baggage or past trauma can hurt your relationship without you realizing it. “When a person suffers from trauma that remains unresolved, they’re often incapable of living their lives without responding to some form of triggers related to that trauma,” Dr. Omari says. For instance, if you’ve been cheated on in the past, your partner going away for a work trip might cause you to become worried, anxious, and insecure. So instead of letting your partner do their own thing, you’ll feel the need to check up on them and stay in constant contact. Dealing with past trauma isn’t always easy to do by yourself. Therapy can be helpful in this case.