Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Four Destructive Patterns in Relationships Part II

In our last post we reviewed the four most destructive patterns we can have in relationships:

We outlined Criticism and Contempt in our last post and today we will discuss the next two, which are, Defensiveness and Stonewalling.


Research shows that this approach rarely has the desired effect. The attacking person does not back down or apologize. This is because defensiveness is really a way of blaming the other person.

You’re saying, in effect, “The problem isn’t me, it’s you.” Defensiveness just escalates the conflict, which is why it’s so deadly. Criticism, Contempt, and Defensiveness don’t always come into a relationship in order. They function more like a relay match — handing the baton off to each other over and over again, if the couple can’t put a stop to it. The more defensive one becomes, the more the other attacks in response. Nothing gets resolved, thanks to the prevalence of criticism, contempt, and defensiveness.
Much of these exchanges are communicated subtly (and not so subtly) through body language and sounds.

Defensiveness is seeing yourself as the victim and warding off a perceived attack. When people are defensive they are not open to learning and are also not able to access the vulnerable feelings underneath. Some typical defensive responses are:

  • Making excuses (e.g., external circumstances beyond your control forced you to act in a certain way) “It’s not my fault...”, “I didn’t...”
  • Cross-complaining: meeting a complaint, or criticism with a complaint of your own, ignoring what the other person said.
  • Disagreeing and then cross-complaining “That’s not true, you’re the one who ...”
  • Yes-butting: start off agreeing but end up disagreeing.

When on the defensive, several unfortunate behaviors result. The remedy: stay connected, listen well, realize that the intensity of the attacks indicates the depth of shared pain.

Questions to Ask Yourself :

  • What from of defensiveness do you recognize within yourself: denying responsibility, making excuses, disagreeing with what you imagine they will say, playing one-upmanship with complaints, saying 'yes' followed immediately with 'but,' repeating yourself, or whining?
  • In what situations are you triggered into this behavior?
  • What payoff do you get? Do you feel relieved, justified, vindicated, excused from relating.
  • With whom have you witnessed this from your childhood? What characteristics did that person exhibit and what was the outcome?


During a typical conversation between two people, the listener gives all kinds of cues to the speaker that he’s paying attention. He may use eye contact, nod his head, say something like “Yeah” or “Uh-huh.”

A stonewaller doesn’t give you this sort of casual feedback. He tends to look away or down without uttering a sound. He sits like an impassive stone wall. The stonewaller acts as though he couldn’t care less about what you’re saying, if he even hears it.

Stonewalling usually arrives later in the course of a relationship than the other three horsemen. That’s why it’s less common among newlyweds than among couples who have been in a negative spiral for a while. It takes time for the negativity created by the first three horsemen to become overwhelming enough that stonewalling becomes an understandable “out.”

Stonewalling is withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. They may think they are trying to be “neutral” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness. Some typical stonewall responses are stony silence, monosyllabic mutterings, changing the subject and removing yourself physically. Stonewalling is considered to be the most “dangerous” of the four horsemen

Think of the husband who comes home from work, gets met with a barrage of criticism from his wife, and hides behind the newspaper. The less responsive he is, the more she yells. Eventually he gets up and leaves the room. Rather than confronting his wife, he disengages. By turning away from her, he is avoiding a fight, but he is also avoiding his marriage. He has become a stonewaller.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • If you have resorted to stonewalling, how quickly do you do so?
  • How do you respond to when you are stonewalling?
  • How do you respond when someone is stonewalling you?
  • Where have you witnessed this before? What were the characteristics of the people involved and what was the outcome of the stonewalling?

Next post we will talk about how to turn these negative patterns around.

" God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." Ephesians 3:20

Monday, April 26, 2010

Four Destructive Patterns in Relationships

Today in our continuing blog series on Relationships we are going to look at 4 of the most destructive forces in a relationship - that in fact if all of these 4 are in a relationship on a consistent basis that relationship has a high probability of failure:

In his book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, John Gottman identifies four characteristics of marriages that signal the marriage is beginning to deteriorate. These four characteristics are:


1. Criticism

Criticism (personality attack) often crawls in when complaints (objective statements of unmet needs) have 'fallen upon deaf ears.' Unlike criticism, complaints are statements of personal reality (I am disappointed we're not going to have dinner together tonight; I was looking forward to being with you.) Complaints do not target the shortcomings of the other party, whereas criticism does this expressly. (you always.....)

Complaint. "There’s no gas in the car. Why didn’t you fill it up like you said you would? Criticism." Why can’t you ever remember anything? I told you a thousand times to fill up the tank, and you didn’t. "
When dealing with criticism, the receiver is left in the awkward position of having to take a personal hit, often times below the belt, or appear defensive. Since criticism is aimed at the character of a person, it is extremely damaging to the relationship.

Questions to ask yourself:
  • When you are upset, do complain or do you tear someones character apart?
  • When do you fall into the trap of criticizing?
  • Is there a particular person who you are in this pattern with?
  • What payoff do you get when you are criticizing? Does it make you feel relieved, justified, vindicated, excused from relating?
  • Who have you witnessed criticizing from your childhood? What characteristics did this person exhibit and what was the outcome of the criticism? Do you have any of these characteristics?
2. Contempt

Contempt, perhaps somewhat self explanatory, often runs in on the heels of criticism. When criticism fails to work, (and it always does,) we often resort to using contempt. Contempt can be both verbal and non verbal - Sarcasm and cynicism are types of contempt. So are name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. In whatever form, contempt — the worst of the four characteristics — is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message you’re disgusted with him or her. Inevitably, contempt leads to more conflict rather than to reconciliation.

The antidote for contempt is respect and connection. By staying connected, to ourselves and then to our relationships, we are able to maintain our humility and love.

Questions to Ask Yourself:
  • How often do you express admiration to people you are in relationship with?
  • Are you able to receive in admiration in your relationships?
  • How are you connecting in your relationship in positive and restorative ways? Or, how would you like to be?
  • Are there any situations you would like to get through without falling prey to receiving or dispensing contempt?
  • When do you fall (or have you fallen) into the trap of contempt? How is it triggered?
  • Whom have you witnessed displaying contempt from your childhood? Do you have any of these characteristics?
Well, these are the first two of what Gottman calls the "Four Horseman" We will look at the last two next post. If you have these characteristics showing up in your relationships and you have pinpointed that you are the one displaying them - then remember what we talked about last post - that it is your choice to change, there are no excuses, it may take time and it will take effort but you can do it!

Romans 12:18 "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

Friday, April 16, 2010

How Can We Have Better Relationships?

Well, I decided I am going to do a 30 day blog on developing better relationships. I'm going to focus mainly on marriage relationships but will also be talking about relationships in general.

I guess my inspiration is that I have been doing alot of premarriage and marriage counseling/coaching recently and have been having to think about and witness the biggest problems that couples of all ages deal with on a regular basis. Not surprisingly many of the issues are similar even though the couples are very diverse.

I am going to start on May 1 with the relationship tools and advice but until then I am going to set some ground work.

My basic belief about marriage is that unless you have extreme circumstances in you marriage such as abuse or infidelity (and sometimes that can be worked through) you are better off if you work on your present marriage instead of leaving and trying to find someone or something better. The reason is because the problems will follow you to the next relationship because normally the main problem is 'us". We continue to carry all our junk from one relationship to another and until we change neither will our circumstances - the faces may change but all the other stuff will still be there. So the main thing we need to do if we are experiencing problems in our marriage is to change ourselves.

Once we get to a place of discontent in our marriage we begin to develop attitudes and behaviors that often reinforce the negatives in our relationship and move us further and further away from the positives. Deciding to have a better relationship with our spouse is a Choice. It is our choice.

I can hear some people saying right now. "My Choice!!" You don't know the person I married!"

Stephen Covey calls people who continually blame other people or their circumstances for their unhappiness "the reactive person." These people allow circumstances or others to rob them of their quality of life. We can become "proactive" people who take responsibility for our own lives.

If our marriages are to improve, or as far as that goes our relationships in general, change must begin with ourselves, not others or our circumstances changing. People are truly changed when they make a choice to be changed by God's truth and become empowered by the Holy Spirit

So here is the premise of what we will be doing:

We can't change other people
We can change ourselves
As we change, people around us adjust their responses and make decisions according to our new behavior.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! "
2 Corinthians 5:17

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Seed of Hope

I wanted to take today's post to give an update of what "A Seed of Hope" Life Coaching is up to.

This blog was created to give readers tools to bring improvement to themselves and their lives in everyday life. "A SEED OF HOPE" is also the name of my Life Coaching business. I thought I would do a post today to introduce two of the ministries that I am contracting with at this time.

First, is "PathSeeker Center" If you look under "staff" you will see what I do there and all the other counselor that work there.

PathSeeker Center is non-profit Christian Counseling and Therapy ministry. They offer counseling, therapy, life coaching, education, and support groups. They charge on a sliding scale and their number is: 877-273-3548

Second is "Faith and Hope Care Center" Again, if you look under staff you will see what I and all the other staff do at that center.

Faith and Hope Care Center is a healing center for individuals seeking a safe and encouraging place where they can be restored and comforted from life's hurts. The Care Center is a solid, balanced, inter-denominational ministry that is a recommended by both Christian ministries and alternative faith-based health and healing organizations. Their number is 813-887-3354.

I feel very blessed to be part of these two organizations and the people that I work with within each ministry.

Keep posted - I'll be starting another 30 day blog in May - not sure what the topic will be yet
Any Suggestions???