When a married couple is dealing with sex addiction trust can be destroyed. With the introduction of infidelity and other negative behaviors, there is a high chance that the number of arguments they have will increase in intensity. While a rise in quarrels does not necessarily signal that the marriage is in trouble, the behavior that occurs during the fight is where we can find telling signs.
Psychologist Dr. John Gottman has over 35 years of experience researching couples. Gottman looks for behaviors that occur when couples argue. Gottman’s years of research and study has given him up to 94% accuracy when judging if a couple is headed for divorce.
Gottman refers to these argumentative behaviors as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” The four horsemen represent criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
Criticism– The first horseman, criticism, occurs when we attack our spouse and not the addictive behavior they are engaged in. By judging a spouse at their core, and not focusing on their particular negative behavior, the “criticism” begins to take the shape of “you are selfish,” or “you are a liar.”
Contempt – The second horseman represents contempt. This represents the worst of the horseman and also the best forecaster of a divorce. Contempt towards a spouse not only shows anger but also disgust directed at them. Contempt during an argument is represented by spousal cynicism, mockery, sarcasm, eye-rolling and hostile, and wicked humor.
John Gottman says that “Contempt is the sulfuric acid of love.”
Defensiveness – Once criticism and contempt become apparent in a marital relationship the next horseman appears. Defensiveness appears as a typical reaction to being judged and attacked.
Dr, Gottman is quoted as saying that, “Defensiveness is a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, the problem isn’t me, it’s you.”
Stonewalling – Once the toxic brew of criticism, contempt, and defensiveness appears in arguments the next phase is when one of the partners begins to stonewall. This final horseman shows a spouse avoiding and tuning out what the other partner is saying. It can be common for the husband or wife of a sex addict to be completely overwhelmed, disgusted and angry with their partner’s negative behavior. On the other hand, a sex addict can also feel overwhelmed by their spouse’s emotions and not possess the tools to offer a response.
A spouse who is in the stonewalling phase is no longer hearing what their partner is saying. Often they will not speak, avoid eye-contact, and even leave the room at the notion of an argument. If you notice any of these actions in your spouse, it is a sign that it is time to reach out for help. Awareness of unhealthy behaviors in your marriage is the first step towards healing.
As a married couple, you can learn the tools needed to restore a healthy way of communicating by seeking out a therapist who is experienced with sex addiction.
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