Women’s Health

Which Disruptive Communication Styles Can Predict A Divorce?

March 07 , 2018
Abeer Bilbeisi

International relationship expert specialized for individuals, couples, parents, and children.


One of the major and initial questions that are asked during my seminars and workshops is what are the major factors that can make it virtually impossible for a marriage to flourish? And my answer is;-

  • Criticism:

“You never think about how your behavior is affecting other people. I don’t believe you are that forgetful, you’re just selfish! You never think of others! You never think of me!”

Being dissatisfied with the way someone does something, or doesn’t do something, is OK. But criticising the person, qualifying the person as a bad individual because he or she can’t fold the laundry correctly, is critical and hurtful. This is an attack on the person’s character, the person’s core, not just on behavior. I suggest focusing on the behavior at hand and narrowing the scope of the complaint.

  • Contempt:

“You’re ‘tired?’ Cry me a river. I’ve been with the kids all day, running around like mad to keep this house going and all you do when you come home from work is flop down on that sofa like a child and play those idiotic computer games. I don’t have time to deal with another kid – try to be more pathetic…”


When you communicate in this state, you are truly mean – treating your partner with disrespect, mocking them with sarcasm, ridicule, name-calling, mimicking, and/or body language such as eye-rolling. The target of contempt is made to feel despised and worthless.

Research found that couples that are disapproving of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illness (colds, the flu, etc.) than others, as their immune systems weaken! Contempt is fuelled by long-simmering negative thoughts about the partner – which come to a head in the perpetrator, attacking the accused from a position of relative superiority. Contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce.

  • Defensiveness

She: “Did you call Ali and Rania to let them know that we’re not coming tonight as you promised this morning?”

He: “I was just too darn busy today. As a matter of fact, you know just how busy my schedule was. Why didn’t you just do it?”

 We’ve all been defensive. Defensiveness is nearly universal when relationships are on the rocks. When we feel accused unjustly, we fish for excuses so that our partner will back off. Unfortunately, this strategy is almost never successful. Our excuses just tell our partner that we don’t take them seriously, trying to get them to buy something that they don’t believe that we are blowing them off.

S/He not only responds defensively but turns the table and makes it her fault.

A non-defensive response would have been: “Oops, I forgot. I should have asked you this morning to do it because I knew my day would be packed. Let me call them right now.”

Although it is perfectly understandable for the male to defend himself in the example given above, this approach doesn’t have the desired effect. The attacking spouse does not back down or apologize. This is because defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner.

  • Stonewalling:

Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction. In other words, stonewalling is when one person shuts down and closes himself/herself off from the other. It is a lack of responsiveness to your partner and the interaction between the two of you.  Rather than confronting the issues (which tend to accumulate!) with our partner, we make evasive makeovers such as tuning out, turning away, acting busy, or engaging in obsessive behaviors and sometimes it can become a habit. Criticism is a major factor for stonewalling.

Being able to identify your communication skills while you are in a conflict discussion, it is a necessary first step to eliminating them, but this knowledge is not enough. To drive away destructive communication patterns, you must replace them with healthy, productive ones.