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Keys to a Successful Relationship

According to statistics, almost 50 percent of the marriages in the U.S. will end in divorce or separation. Nearly 80 percent of divorced people get remarried, six percent of which remarry the same spouse. The majority of recent marriages (58 percent) are first marriages for both spouses, although 21 percent involve both spouses marrying for at least the second time.

Why Marriages Fail

Why do so many marriages fail? There are lots of reasons. In his book “What Predicts Divorce?”, psychologist Dr. John Gottman identifies the four most problematic types of communication in relationships, based on his studies of 40,000 couples:

  1. Contempt: Expressing a lack of respect for our partners (e.g., name-calling, eye-rolling, ridiculing).
  2. Criticism: Attacking a partner’s character.
  3. Defensiveness: Protecting from criticism by using excuses or shifting blame.
  4. Stonewalling: Withdrawing from communication by ignoring, zoning out or acting busy.

Of these four, Gottman says, the biggest predictor of a failed relationship is contempt.

Gottman suggests that contempt is more than criticism or saying something negative. It’s when one partner asserts that they are smarter, have better morals, or are simply a better human being than the other.  The partner on the receiving end feels unworthy and unloved. This kind of behavior is disrespectful, and respect is a key element of any successful relationship.

Contempt makes it impossible for partners to feel like they have each other’s back. Instead of “it’s you and me against the problem,” partners are now the opponents. They never know when they might be attacked or undermined.

Research has shown that individuals who use contempt in their communication have higher rates of disease, including cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses such a colds or the flu. In other words, being contemptuous of a partner contributes to stressful situations and may prompt your partner to decide on a “fight or flight” response to manage the effects.

As most married couples know, poor communication is the backbone of a strong relationship. It also builds trust. Don’t shut your partner off from your life – the good, the bad, and the ugly of it. Sharing your thoughts with a loved one, even if you feel embarrassed by some event, is cathartic.

In relationships, communication allows to you explain to someone else what you are experiencing and what your needs are. It provides an opportunity for them to show love and support unconditionally. If you screw up, admit it; promise never to do it again; move on; and don’t do it again!

Here are the five C's of effective communication: Relationship

  • Be clear. To communicate effectively, you have to know what you want and take ownership for your own needs. 
  • Be concise. Keep your requests direct, simple and to the point. 
  • Provide a compelling request
  • Be curious
  • Be compassionate.

Stephen Covey, in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, postulates that one important habit of a good communicator is to “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” Being a good listener is an art. You need to be open and attentive to what your partner is saying. Many people make the mistake of formulating their response while their partner is communicating rather than listening carefully and then deciding how to respond.

8 Ways to Ruin Your Relationship

Here are 8 Ways to Ruin Your Relationship from the Healthy Journal.

  • Take your partner for granted. There's no better way to help hurry the end of the relationship than to just assume your partner is always there to make your life easier. 
  • Stop talking. 
  • Stop expressing your feelings. 
  • Stop listening. 
  • Kill the fun. 
  • Nitpick. 
  • Threaten. 
  • Ignore your partner.

This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t be proactive in getting your point across, especially if it involves a criticism of your partner. To build trust and establish relationships, you have to be self-aware of how you speak. Listen for how the message is received when you speak and adjust as needed.

More than just the words you say, how you say them matters even more. Your tone conveys your emotions and thoughts — are you being passionate and proud, or are you condescending or dismissive? The same phrase said in different ways can mean very different things.

Communication is about more than words — it includes your tone and body language. You might want to convey something in a certain way. It’s not your perception that matters but how other people perceive you.

Perception vs. Realty

Perception is reality. So even if you say something that feels sincere to you, the person could hear it completely differently, and that becomes their reality.

The bottom line is it takes work to develop a long-lasting, successful relationship. The ancient Greeks knew that happiness was the end product of living a life of excellence, and this includes excellence in communication and behavior. How can you go about it? Practice the tips in this blog and see if it makes a difference.

Finally, lots of people think that “the grass is greener” somewhere else. You mean that other people's situations always seem better or more attractive than your own. This isn’t the case. Just about everyone struggles in relationships. It’s how you deal with your partner including attentiveness to their needs that may define whether you will have a healthy, successful relationship.

Posted by Dr. Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on March 14, 2023. You can sign up for our newsletter and learn more about Steve’s activities by checking out his website at: Follow me on Facebook at: and on Twitter at: