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There are a lot of dysfunctional habits that will destroy your relationship, however, after decades of research, Dr. John Gottman has found one major contributor. The even crazier thing is this likely is not what you had imagined.

If I asked you what the number one relationship killer was, what would you say? Most people would say things like infidelity, a lack of sex, a lack of quality time, and maybe even a lack of trust. However, none of those are the right answers. Gottman, after carrying out a multitude of studies on over 40,000 couples, says contempt is the number one relationship killer.

Gottman also says it is worth considering a total of four problematic types of relationship communication:

1. Contempt.
2. Criticism.
3. Defensiveness.
4. Stonewalling.

Contempt, Gottman says, is the number one predictor of divorce or separation. Contempt is much like hatred. It is a form of communication and a state of mind that can leave your partner feeling unloved and unwanted.

One example of this is let’s say that one spouse is trying to talk with someone, but every time they say something, their partner has something underhanded or hateful to interject towards their partner. While we all hold our partners in contempt from time to time, when contempt becomes a regular occurrence, Gottman says the relationship could be doomed.

The odd thing about contempt is that instead of the two partners working together, contempt can push them not only further apart, but also put them in a war zone. However, contempt is not just bad for relationships, research has also pointed out that contempt can harm our health. Based on the research, when people hold others in contempt in their communication, they have a higher likelihood of ending up with a major disease like heart disease or cancer.

If you feel like you and your partner may be holding each other in contempt, it may be helpful to sit down and face negative feelings together. Additionally, if you want your relationship to survive, Gottman says it is of the utmost importance to let your partner know they are appreciated and to be sure to show it on the regular.