Momlogic's Jackie got steaming mad when Ryan Seacrest told a married father of four, who claimed he was in an emotionally abusive marriage, to leave his wife. Here's what a relationship expert has to say.
Dr. Michelle Golland: Married but having problems? The best advice is not to divorce, but to go directly into couple's counseling. I have seen the most damaged and difficult marriages work out and become stronger and healthier than they ever were in the past.
All marriages struggle, but if you have children, they deserve to live in a home free of conflict and anger. This will not end when you divorce, but will most likely increase when you separate and divorce. You will still both be the same people who entered into the marriage and will continue your personal dysfunction in your life apart unless you do some personal work in therapy.
If you are in the battlefield of a difficult marriage, it can seem like you spend most of the day avoiding minefields. The problems seem so overwhelming that they seem impossible to sort out, especially when each partner has created their war chest of hurts, anger, and resentments. Most unhappy marriages begin in the same way and follow a downward spiral that seems to end in the inevitable sadness of divorce. You are not alone: More than half of all marriages end in divorce, and 60% of second marriages fail also. What is frightening is many people can't understand why.
John Gottman, Ph.D., has coined the phrase the "four horsemen." These are destructive ways of interacting that directly sabotage any relationship. As each of these become more entrenched, they contribute to the ever-rising negativity in the relationship.
The "four horsemen" are as follows:
1) CRITICISM: Criticizing involves attacking someone's personality or character rather than a specific behavior and with a blaming attitude. This is different than complaining, which we all must do in a relationship. It goes beyond complaining about not doing the dishes to "you never pay our bills on time, you are so selfish." This brings it to another level. When you are using phrases like "you always" and "you never," you may be slipping into criticism.
2) CONTEMPT: What separates contempt from criticism is the intention to insult and psychologically abuse your partner. With your words and body language, you are hurling insults right at their core person. You also have negative thoughts about your partner. They are stupid, selfish, and incompetent, and these thoughts get expressed either directly or subtly. This stage is when most couples forget why they ever fell in love with their partner in the first place.
Signs of contempt:
* Insults and name-calling
* Hostile humor
This is not an every-once-in-a-while occurrence; we have moments where we have lost our emotions and acted contemptuously. But if you feel you are under attack and always ready to retaliate, you have found yourself with the 2nd horseman.
3) DEFENSIVENESS: This comes in as a response to contempt. Each party becomes defensive: trying to plead innocent while feeling victimized over and over again. This attitude only seems to escalate the conflict further.
Signs of defensiveness:
* Denying any responsibility
* Making excuses
* Cross-complaining: as soon as a complaint is revealed, you ignore it and deliver your own complaint.
* Repeating yourself: rather than trying to understand the other person's perspective, you simply keep reiterating your point because it is the "correct" one.
4) STONEWALLING: Once you have come through the first three, you are both utterly exhausted from the negative spiral you are in, and this can be the final nail in the coffin of a bad marriage.
Your marriage began by being scattered by the landmines of bad communication to the deafening silence of no communication at all.
The "stonewaller" just removes him or herself by turning into a nonresponsive stone wall. They begin to shut out their partner, not taking in any input and even expressing hostility.
Stonewalling is very powerful: it conveys disapproval, icy distance, and smugness. Men tend to be the stonewallers in difficult marriages, which causes women to be reactive, which further pushes the man away.
WHAT THE FOUR HORSEMEN BRING WITH THEM:
If there is no healthy response to the four horsemen and they continue to reside in your marriage, two things will occur:
One, you will live a lonely, angry married life peppered with moments of happiness.
Two, you will end up with a divorce lawyer dividing up the wreckage of your bad ways.
Once the couple mostly experiences distance between them and begins to lead separate lives, they may have an affair, move into separate rooms of the house, or ask for a divorce.
If you are in an emotionally abusive marriage (like Ryan's caller said he is), call a psychologist who specializes in marriage and get the help you all desperately need. You do not need to leave. Not yet, and maybe not at all.
|Dr. Golland is a USC graduate and a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY#16974). She works with adults, teens and is an expert in the field of marriage and relationships. Dr. Golland has given her expert advice on CNN, HLN, MSNBC, ABC, and Fox news. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two wonderfully exhausting children.|