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Healthy Communication in Relationships: Part One

Healthy Communication in Relationships: Part One


You’ve heard how important healthy communication in relationships is, but what does that really mean? Do you leave a conflict feeling more angry and confused than when it started?  You feel that the arguments you’re having with your partner never get resolved.  Your partner says you need to work on healthy communication.  In this four part blog series, I will discuss what Dr. John Gottman calls “The Four Horsemen”.  In this series you will learn about four unhealthy communication styles that often impact relationship success (or lack thereof), what they look like, and ways to change these patterns.

Part One: Communication through Criticism.   

Although criticism alone is not a predictor of a relationship ending, it often leads to far more toxic communication patterns.  It is important to make the distinction between criticism and a complaint.  A complaint often targets one’s behaviors. For example, “It doesn’t feel like you care about me because you didn’t ask about my day.”  On the other hand, criticism attacks core character traits.  “You never listen to me, you only talk about yourself.”  The danger of this type of communication is that it puts one person in the right and one in the wrong; leaving one partner feeling attacked and defensive.  Usually, this results in no one feeling heard and creates a tense environment when in each other’s company.  In summary, this is not healthy communication in relationships.

Remedy criticism using healthy communication in relationships through “I feel statements”.

For example, “I felt unimportant when we only talked about your day at dinner.”  The distinction here is using specific and direct examples of behaviors rather than an attack on your partners’ personality.  In addition, ask for what you need: “Can we make time tonight to talk about both of our days?” As Gottman explains, “complain without blame”.  This is a more effective way of building healthy communication in relationships.

If you notice that criticism is present in any of your relationships, don’t fret.  This is not necessarily a predictor of a relationship ending.  Conflict is a natural and healthy part of all relationships.  It’s not the conflict that is the issue, but how we handle it.  In addition, identifying this communication style, sharing your feelings constructively, and working on healthy communication in relationships you may start to feel more fulfilled, confident, and loved.

For more information about “The Four Horsemen” visit:


Stay tuned for Part Two where we will explore Contempt!

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