7 Things That Can Destroy a Marriage, and How to Avoid Them


It’s a cliché that the biggest problems in marriage revolve around money and sex — but these aren’t the only areas that can make or break a long-term relationship. A host of unhealthy dynamics, hurtful behaviors, and poor priorities can mean the difference between thriving and failing.

In his extensive research on marriage, the psychologist and researcher John Gottman, a doctor of clinical psychology, has identified four harbingers of unhappy marriages he calls the Four Horsemen. “These include criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness,” explains Sara Miller, the owner of Confluent Relationship Therapy in Chicago. “These are behaviors displayed in relationship dynamics that are proven to be damaging over time.”

To maintain healthy, happy romantic relationships, it’s important to spot (and root out) common problems that can lead to discord or even divorce. In one way or another, many of the things that destroy marriage are rooted in the so-called Four Horsemen. But others go beyond this rubric. Little, everyday conflicts can add up to marital strife, or sometimes it’s deeper issues that rear their ugly heads.

Here’s a look at seven common behaviors that can destroy a marriage or long-term relationship — and how to fix them before they do.


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