Conflict is a normal part of all relationships. Though many may think that conflict is what leads to destruction of a relationship, this is not the case. Although conflict may not kill a relationship, there are four communication patterns that are so toxic that they symbolize the end of a relationship.

Due to the severity of the damage that these negative communication patterns can do, John Gottman calls these the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and they symbolize an end to a relationship.


1. Criticism

Criticism is an attack on your partner’s character. When we communicate with a partner, we may criticize their personality rather than their actions. This can lead to our partner feeling rejected and escalate negative emotions that can lead to your partner responding with other toxic communication patterns. This criticism is communication with an intention to hurt the other.


2. Contempt

Contempt is communication that is disrespectful and mocking. It works to put ourselves over our partners in the relationship. This contempt is communication with an intention to lower the other person to feeling worthless.


3. Defensiveness

Defensiveness is communication that tries to prove our own innocence. Although this seems normal, this is toxic communication as it ignores our partner’s concerns and feelings to make ourselves look good. This defensiveness is communication with an intention to refuse responsibility and reject our partner’s communication.


4. Stonewalling

Stonewalling is when we shut down communication with our partner. We do this by tuning our partner out, choosing to be distracted, or acting busy. This is communication with an intention to stop the conflict by avoiding it. It is a result of feeling flooded in communication.


These are 4 toxic communication patterns that symbolize the end of a relationship. Although these are predictors to the end of relationships, these can be replaced with healthy communication patterns to save a relationship.

If you would like to remove toxic communication patterns and build strong, healthy communication that can lead to a revitalized relationship, schedule an appointment today.

Sam Lee

Sam Lee

Couples & Family Counselor

Through our life journey, whether in marriage or with family and friends, we long to have loving and trusting relationships. Despite these hopes, there’s a rupture in the relationship: whether there’s betrayal, unmet expectations, or a breakdown in communication. I believe that no matter where you are, with help, you can find a path forward to overcome the obstacles in your life and relationships.

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