Therapy Blog for Orem, Spanish Fork & South Jordan

4 Signs You Have Marriage Problems

marriage problemsIf you are reading this article, you likely have marriage problems. Also, you could be thinking there isn’t hope because you have tried everything. Your own emotional health could be suffering. 

Without hope, continuing in a marriage riddled with problems can be daunting. This article is meant to give you hope through recognizing specific issues in marriage that can damage. If you can see these issues, then you can change them. There is a link below for solutions to the marriage problems outlined here. 

When dealing with marriage, there are some issues that carry more weight than others to ending your relationship. So, let’s look at what research says about couples who make it and couples who don’t so you can avoid issues that damage your marriage.

We can do this by turning to John Gottman. He is one of the world’s leading researchers on marriage. As such, he has identified 4 critical marriage problems to look for in your relationship that could signal the end of it. When you find these four relationship issues in your marriage he predicts that unless you change them, your relationship is in jeopardy. 

Let’s take a look at what Gottman calls the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Remember, when you find these marriage problems in your relationship, the ‘end is near’. So, learn to recognize them so you can get rid of them as soon as you can. 

1 – Criticism

Criticism shows up as the first horseman. Criticism and complaining are different. Whereas complaining is about a specific issue or event, criticism attacks the person of your partner.

For example, complaining would say, “I don’t like that you invited your parents to our anniversary dinner”. On the other hand, criticism would say, “I can’t believe you would invite your parents to our night. You are so thoughtless sometimes.” 

Criticism is especially dangerous because it opens the door for the other four horseman to make an appearance. Although, if you use criticism in your marriage it doesn’t mean that your relationship is doomed. It can mean that it is headed down the wrong path, however. When met with criticism, your partner will often feel attacked and hurt and will often escalate with their own behaviors that are damaging to your relationship. 

2 – Contempt

Contempt shows up as the second horseman. This horseman goes beyond criticism’s attack of character and attacks your partner with disgust, meanness, and disrespect. This is where you speak to your partner with loathing and hatred asserting your moral supremacy over them. Your body language reflects this mockery and disgust through eye rolling, sarcasm, or scoffing. Thus, your partner feels belittled and ridiculed. Your bottled up and long-boiling negative thoughts lead up to contempt. 

Listen to this example of contempt: “You’ve got to be kidding me! You come home from work and tell me you need a break? Try being with the kids all day long and getting no thanks for it. Wow, so tell me how hard your day was, honey. You are an unbelievable excuse for a husband.”

Gottman found that contempt in a marriage is the single greatest predictor of divorce. So, work to get rid of this one immediately. 

3 – Defensiveness

Defensiveness shows up as the third horseman. Often, it is the response to criticism. When your spouse criticizes you, your natural response is to defend yourself. Why not? If it wasn’t your fault or if your spouse isn’t seeing things correctly, don’t you have a right to defend yourself? This position, however, never leads to the desired outcome. 

Here is an example of defensiveness. Partner: “You forgot to bring home milk and bread, again.” You: “I was too busy running the other errands you asked me to do after working all day long.”

4 – Stonewalling

Stonewalling shows up as the fourth horseman. This is usually a response to contempt. When you stonewall your partner you completely shut them out. Becoming non-responsive, you ignore all of their attempts to engage with you. To get to this point, it takes a lot of time and engagement of the first three horseman. Unfortunately, this is one bad habit that is hard to break. Stonewalling is also connected to being ‘physiologically flooded’, as Gottman calls it. 

Take a look at this example of stonewalling: Partner: “Honey, we need to talk about what to do about our budget. You know that you can’t keep spending money like you do.” You: silence, turning on the tv and turning away. 


If you have noticed any of the 4 horsemen in your marriage, that is the first step to doing something about it. If you can see it, you can change it. Most people can’t or don’t see these issues, even though acting them out. The antidotes to these negative and damaging marriage problems in your relationship are outlined in an article here. 

We have trained marriage counselors at our therapy centers. Using Gottman’s principles, they have helped many relationships heal marriage problems. Research-based treatment, such as the Gottman Method, has helped thousands of couples find peace and happiness. If you aren’t able to make it into therapy, you could read one of John Gottman’s books that outline his research. This is often the first step that many couples take. 

Our counseling centers are located in Orem, Spanish Fork, American Fork and South Jordan. We are excited to be delivering counseling services in South Jordan now. This is a new clinic where we offer couples counseling, individual therapy and family therapy.  

Written by Triston Morgan, PhD

Utah Therapy


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