The 4 Biggest Signs Of Divorce & How To Reverse Them

There's still time to identify these "four horsemen of the apocalypse" in your relationship.

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It's hard to recognize every red flag in a relationship, but these four biggest signs of divorce are worth keeping tabs on.  

Arguing is a normal part of any relationship. In fact, married couples who claim not to argue are either lying to themselves or not participating fully in the marriage.

If you have a marriage without disagreement, you have two partners who are not fully invested in the marriage.


Just because arguing is a normal part of marriage does not mean that negative interactions should outweigh positive ones.

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Too much arguing might be a sign of troubled waters. Dr. John Gottman, a psychology professor, was able to identify the four biggest signs of divorce among married couples that he called, "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."

If you feel that you and your spouse argue far too much, you might want to see if you can identify those four signs of divorce. Identifying the elements of a potential breakdown in your marriage may help you save it from disaster.


The 4 biggest signs of divorce and what to do about them.

1. Criticism

Criticism can often be unhealthy for any relationship. That's not to say that all criticism is bad. For instance, constructive criticism can have a positive impact.

However, if you use criticism as a means to destroy your partner’s character, it could have a devastating effect.

You can certainly point out if your partner behaves in a certain way that has an impact on your feelings, finances, or other issues related to your marriage. Of course, there's a right way and a wrong way to point out those behaviors.


For example, if your partner is late coming home from work and hasn’t called you like you've asked many times before, express your concerns properly.

Constructive criticism might sound like: "I’m glad you're home and safe, but I was very concerned. It makes me worry more when you do not call me to tell me that you'll be late coming home."

With the statement above, you have clearly expressed your feelings and how your spouse’s behavior made you feel. That's a constructive form of criticism.

Negative criticism sounds more like: "You are the most selfish, inconsiderate person I know! I hate that you never stop to think about how your behavior impacts me when you don’t call to tell me you’re going to be late!"


As you can see, the negative criticism above can cause a good deal of hurt. Although you're getting your point across, you're doing so in a way that's not received well.

If you find that you or your partner criticize each other using negative criticism far too often, then you're likely looking at one of the four biggest signs of divorce.

2. Contempt

Gottman considers contempt to be the kiss of death for married couples. If you feel contempt toward your spouse, it's indicative that your marriage is in serious trouble.

When feelings of contempt or disgust arise, it can overshadow anything positive, such as the potential for feelings of love.

Contempt is often expressed by way of cynicism, mocking, ridiculing, and belittling the other person. If you notice these behaviors in your marriage, you need to take a step back and think about where these feelings are coming from. 


For instance, contempt may arise if your spouse loses his or her job. You may feel angry and disgusted at the situation.

If your thoughts and feelings cannot come from a place of understanding toward one another, it's a sign of degeneration in the relationship. In fact, contempt might be one of the more serious of all the four major signs of divorce.

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3. Defensiveness

If you receive criticism and contempt from your spouse, it may cause you to feel defensive. Defensiveness is a common human reaction. It's easier to defend actions than it is to take responsibility for them.

Unfortunately, when you become too defensive, the problem between you and your spouse only intensifies.


Also, when you become defensive, you put your guard up. When you put your guard up, you are creating a wall that can cause further divisiveness between you and your spouse.

Rather than providing room for you and your partner to solve issues, defensiveness creates further distance.

4. Stonewalling

Stonewalling is the fourth and final sign of divorce. It happens when you or your partner withdraw from the relationship.

One form of stonewalling is pulling out your phone, walking away, or simply ignoring your partner when an argument arises. Stonewalling shows that you no longer care enough about the relationship to participate in it.

It's understandable that you'd want to avoid an argument. Fighting with your spouse isn't any fun. However, arguments are a normal part of any relationship.


The tension and discomfort are only temporary. If you work together to process your feelings and understand one another, the feeling of tension and discomfort eventually passes.

Even with some signs of divorce on the horizon, your marriage isn't doomed. 

Just because your marriage is showing one or even all of the four horsemen of the apocalypse doesn't mean it's time to throw in the towel.

In fact, it's completely normal for couples to display the four behaviors listed above every now and then. If it happens all the time, you have a much larger issue on your hands.


Most importantly, if you recognize that these behaviors exist in your relationship at all, that's a great start. 

That means you care enough to take notice of your behaviors and how they're affecting your marriage. Recognition and acceptance of your behaviors is the first step toward healing and recovery.

One way to reverse the effects of these signs of divorce is to replace them with a healthier, more understanding dynamic. Rather than offering negative criticism, stick to positive criticism.

Rather than getting defensive, offer understanding to your spouse. Instead of showing contempt, offer honesty about your feelings, but do so in a calm, neutral manner.


Finally, instead of ignoring the problem, face it head-on and work your way through it.

If you find that you're having trouble working through your issues, speak to a qualified therapist. Therapy has helped many couples overcome many signs of divorce and it can do the same for you.

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Monica Ramunda, MA, LPC, RPT-S is a family therapist and the owner of Rocky Mountain Counseling and Lighthouse Counseling Services. Much of Monica’s success is based on her eclectic orientation and drawing on a wide range of different approaches and techniques all while remaining strongly grounded in the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (CBT).