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Relationships are probably simultaneously the most difficult and fulfilling part of life. Every couple goes through a rough patch, and many of them have trouble escaping it. Maintaining a relationship is no simple task, but a combination of the right people and the right attitude can make all the difference. 

John Gottman has researched married couples for over forty years. In his book Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman discusses the “four horsemen” that indicate a failing marriage and provides ways to solve these issues.

Here are some common problems among married couples and how to avoid them with your partner!


It’s one thing to complain about things your partner does: leaving the bathroom a mess, spending way too much time watching television, etc. It’s another thing to judge them for this behavior. Criticizing is an attack on a person’s character rather than their behavior, and this can be problematic in any marriage.


Again, complaining is a part of human nature, and perfectly normal in any marriage. When our spouses do or say things to annoy us, it’s natural for us to express it. However, if you constantly find yourself rolling your eyes or verbally insulting your partner, then it may be a sign of a bigger problem.

“In whatever form, contempt – the worst of the four horsemen – is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust,” says Gottman. “It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with him or her.”



According to Gottman, “defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, ‘The problem isn’t me, it’s you.’” Being defensive, even if you aren’t at fault, can do more harm than good in an argument.


If you find yourself in a constant tug of war with your spouse, you’re eventually going to give up. After a while, you’ll start yes-ing them to death, or worse, ignoring them completely. While this temporarily removes you from the issue, it may permanently remove you from the relationship.

These four habits are the leading cause of divorce among couples. So how can we avoid them? Luckily, Gottman has solutions for that, too.

  • The healthiest marriages are among those who know each other the best. How can you love someone you barely know? Gottman explains that “emotionally intelligent” couples care the most about one another and their feelings, which leads to a more successful marriage.
  • When “emotionally intelligent” couples do argue, the other person tends to use “I” instead of “you.” Not only does it help them better express their thoughts and feelings, but it also prevents the other person from feeling attacked.
  • The third solution is so simple that it might surprise you. After a long day, ask your spouse how it went. You can vent to each other about work or school and get all of the emotion out. That way, you won’t be able to take it out on one another.
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