According to studies, most couples have their first divorce by the age of 30. These same studies suggest that most marriages don`t last more than eight years and that one of every two marriages in America ends in divorce.

These studies and surveys simply mean that our relationship management sucks. As a generation, we can no longer understand or tolerate each other. We live in our own heads and nobody taught us how to nurture close relationships or manage conflicts without ruining them.

For that, I`ve compiled you a list of the six deadliest relationship mistakes, according to John Gottman, relationship expert, and bestselling author of The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships.

Mistake #1: Being caught up in your own bubble

This means you no longer pay attention to the emotional needs of the other person because you`re so caught up in your own life, that you no longer prioritize the relationship or stop to think about your partner`s needs.

According to Gottman, you have to stop every now and then and ask, ‘What are my most important relationships, and what do I want from each of them?’ Am I in it for the love and intimacy or am I in it to acquire something or prove that I`m always right?’ If you make it a habit to stop and ask such questions, then you`ll always have time to save a relationship before it stalls.

Mistake #2: Fighting the wrong way

All couples, friends, or partners get mad at each other and sometimes fight. The difference, however, between good and broken relationships is the way the two sides handle such fights.

This, according to experts, is a matter of choosing your words. Pick the right ones, and things will likely end on good terms. Pick the wrong words, however, and the barrier between you and the other person will grow inches taller. According to Gottman, there are three steps to make sure your conflicts are as clean as they should be:

  • Begin with something positive

Instead of saying, “we never do something fun together” or “You`re never there for me”, you can say “I really miss you being around.” The first is an accusation that will put them on the defensive, whereas the second speaks your feelings, and creates empathy. If you want to deliver a message without wrecking things down then try to start the conversation with “I” instead of “You.”

  • Express appreciation

Instead of saying, “Why we don`t hang together so often?” You can say, “Thanks for asking me to join you. What should we do to make it a ritual?

  • Don`t stockpile complaints

Address only one subject at a time. If your child hands you a report card, instead of saying “you never help with chores, you`re always sleeping, and your grades suck.” You can only mention his bad grades saying “I`m really worried about your report card. You`ve dropped a grade in every subject.”

Mistake #3: Using Criticism Instead of Complaints

The difference between criticism and a complaint is that the latter focuses on a specific problem or behavior, whereas the former —criticism— is more broad and judgmental and focuses on others` character flaws. So instead of attacking a behavior, you`re attacking the person which will make them resent you.

“Complain when you must, but don’t criticize.” Writes Gottman. “You said you`d send me those emails yesterday,” is a complaint. But “Why those emails weren`t sent yesterday? You`re irresponsible,” is a criticism. When addressing a complaint, Gottman suggests you follow these two steps:

  • Say what you need without attacking the person in front of you.

Don`t say, “What`s the matter with you, you`re never helping me with the kids and all you think about is going out with your friends.” But say, “I need your help with the kids on the weekends, but for the past week you`ve been busy with your friends.”

  • Describe how you feel and don`t talk in absolutes.

Don`t say, “Boyfriends who don`t reply back to messages are playing hardball.” But say, “When you don`t respond to my messages, I feel like you don`t care about my feelings.”

Mistake #4: Flooding

Flooding happens when the other person pushes your red buttons and you get so fed up that you say, or do, things you weren`t supposed to say or do. This usually happens when you feel stressed and emotionally overwhelmed that you can no longer think clearly.

To overcome flooding, you must learn to relax and control your feelings. This is why Gottman recommends that you take a break from the conversation and do something chilling for at least twenty minutes which is the amount of time it typically takes the body to recover from emotional stress. 

You can take a few deep breaths, do some yoga, watch TV, or hit the gym. Whatever that gets your mind off the conflict for twenty minutes will work just fine.

Mistake #5: Always Looking for the negative

It`s bad to be in a relationship with someone who can no longer see the good in you. These people constantly scan the world for evidence to justify an assumption that you`re always at fault.

According to Gottman, friends and couples should look for proofs that make them appreciate, not criticize, each other. Such climate of praise and gratitude will make them become even more attracted to each other. You can do this by following some of these suggestions:

  • Record when you feel like criticizing or snapping at your partner/friend
  • Describe your feelings and why you`re mad at them
  • Find a way to counter that criticism with appreciation
  • Write one thing that you appreciate about this person each day for 30 days

Mistake #6: Avoiding the Conversation You Need to Have

Psychologist Dan Wile author of After the Honeymoon: How Conflict Can Improve Your Relationship, believes that many of the tension, hostility, and quarrels between couples are caused by the issues they need to discuss but never do.

By burying their heads in the sand, couples waste their time and energy and miss on the chance of finding a common ground. This is why Gottman suggests that, whenever your values collide with your partner`s, you discuss it right away and work on common understanding. 

Even if you don’t find the perfect compromise, you’ll at least established an emotional connection by keeping things open.

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