I meet with people who are thinking about divorce or already involved in a divorce on almost a daily basis.  I see the same issues over and over and over again.  There appear to be a number of common “triggers” that cause people to seek out my services, such as financial issues, different parenting styles, and even boredom in the marriage or adultery.

This article from the Chicago Sun Times points out that there are four primary behaviors that commonly lead to a couple seeking a divorce.  They include:

  • Criticism
  • Defensiveness
  • Contempt
  • Stonewalling

We can all think of examples where we have used each of these behaviors in our daily lives, and we can all appreciate that using criticism, getting defensive in a conversation, acting contemptuously towards others and ignoring others are all unhealthy behaviors.  When we use them on someone we care about, like our spouse, they can be even more hurtful.

In order to stay happy in your marriage, try using the opposite behaviors with your spouse.  Instead of criticism, try telling your spouse how you feel.  (My wife and I constantly use “I feel” statements – “I feel… when you… because…”).  Instead of getting defensive, try listening to your partner and empathizing with how they feel.  Stop yourself whenever you feel like you might say or do something that will hurt your partner.  And finally, engage in your relationship – if you can’t talk to your spouse right now, let them know that you are upset and will be ready to talk in 10 minutes, an hour, however long it will take for you to calm down and regroup.