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Silent Killers That Can Ruin Relationships

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Published on 09/06/2021

‘Do what you did at the beginning of a relationship and it won’t end’

Tony Robbins

Relationships are something that needs to be worked on every single day, but it can be easy for little things to add up leading to their decline. According to relationship experts Dr. John and Dr. Julie Gotteman, most couples that separate or get divorced have a few silent relationship killers in common.

The couples that are pretty much doomed to fail are if they have any of the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse‘ in their relationship. These traits are sarcasm, stonewalling, criticism and contempt. Out of the four silent relationship killers, Dr. Gottman identified contempt as being the number one predictor of divorce.

Dr. Mike McNulty of The Gottman Institute said that if you can’t handle communication around fights or disagreements that your relationships will suffer as a result.  

Partners who are headed toward divorce have the following tendencies: They become angry and use what we call the ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse or negative patterns of communication, which are criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness.

 A lack of communication is aids in killing a marriage, with McNulty saying that “relationships die by ice rather than fire,” so when you stop talking to your partner, you stop investing warmth and emotion into your relationship, which is when you need to be worried about your marriage.

Professional counselor E.J. Smith says that contempt is by far the most damaging of all of the ‘horsemen‘.

“When people start to look at their spouse with contempt or resentment, it colors the lens through which we see, observe and interpret our spouse,

“Its presence undermines the desire to continue to work at our relationships. Even gestures and behaviors that could be seen as positive can be twisted in such a way that they’re seen as negative.”

The ‘Four Horsemen‘ are far harder to spot than other major relationship ruiners, like cheating and infidelity; so it’s important to be able to spot them before it’s too late to resolve the issues. Here are some of the key killers to look out for!


Stonewalling is one of the key issues, and one of the ‘Four Horsemen’ from Dr. Gotteman. Stonewalling occurs when one partner withdraws or shuts down during a conversation or argument, cutting themselves off from the other side.

As Dr. LaWanda N. Evans says;

“They emotionally or mentally close themselves off from their partner due to being physiologically flooded or agitated to the point where they can’t discuss an issue respectfully,”

You cannot solve any problems in a relationship when one side isn’t making an effort to do so. It becomes an endless cycle, and often kills the relationship over time.

Avoiding Conflict

Who likes conflict? Most people will do anything to try and avoid conflict as it’s uncomfortable and can cause pain. However, as Dr. Connie Omari says;

“Avoiding conflict is a silent relationship killer because it prevents the opportunity for addressing conflict to take place.” When you aren’t addressing conflicts, you’re allowing the negativity to fester. The important thing here is to learn how to deal with conflict in the right way. “Not learning these skills is a sure way kill your relationship silently,”


Christine Scott-Hudson, a psychotherapist says, “Unhealed resentments in a relationship can be a death knoll for a break-up,”

While it shows its head in many forms, resentment truly is one of the biggest killers of a relationship. It can show itself in sarcastic or snarky comments, particularly about certain topics. If there is resentment in a relationship, it’s usually an indicator that there’s not enough open and honest communication.

Invalidating Emotions

This is an easy one to do without thinking about it. One example could be that your partner says that they are cold, but you feel perfectly warm. It is perfectly easy to respond to their complaint by saying, “It’s not that cold” without thinking that you are invalidating their emotions. But the main issue is that little offhand remarks like this build-up into full-blown resentment over time.

As Dr. Omari says, “When a person feels invalidated, they often feel disconnected and unheard,”

“These two characteristics combined, will definitely work to deteriorate a relationship quickly.”

What do you think is the biggest relationship killer? Leave a comment down below!

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