Archive for June, 2015

Our Nation Reflects the State of Marriage: What Does This Mean For Children?

Earlier this month we were in Las Vegas at a tax conference. Between meetings we were talking with some of our colleagues about how closely the national mood is reflecting the condition of marriages today.

Looking at John and Julie Gottman’s work, they note that marriages are headed for trouble when four major communication “grenades” are employed by one or both spouses – they refer to these as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” They are criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. When a person becomes critical they are blaming and finding fault in the other person. When that “grenade” goes off the recipient will often become defensive which turns the criticism back to the sender. For example:

Criticism: “If you weren’t so lazy…”
Defensive Response: “If you didn’t spend so much time…”

These two can play on each other with no end in sight. In frustration, to escalate for a “win,” someone may turn to contempt as a method to signal superiority. This shows up in language as well as gestures such as rolling eyes, pointing fingers, etc… anything that signals being superior, being better, etc… than the other person.

What follows is shutting down. The John and Julie refer to this a stonewalling. It is a point at which there is so much negativity coming at an individual that they simply shut down. They try to self-calm or at least to avoid escalating what is happing through a negative response. Yet in this posture of perceived indifference it is often seen by the other person as being ignored. That simple perception of ignoring someone is enough to escalate the problem to a higher level of conflict.

Does any of this sound familiar when looking at the level of public and political discourse in the world around us? A culture in which entertainment is based on finding fault, making crude and profane comments, using situational comedy to mock and degrade with pointless attempts at humor. Society no longer looks at the human condition with the goal of elevating it. Destructive tools are used to degrade and to elicit feelings of laughter at the expense of others.

Looking at our political world, when have we seen politicians running for office having honest discussions? When have they talked openly about issues of substance or exchanging ideas rather than attacking an opponent’s character? The concepts and process of criticism, defensiveness coupled with contempt and ignoring each other are embedded in the world of politics. Then comes the divorce – the disinterest of the public who turns away from the political world to their electronic devices, their online persona, their social media friends (many of whom they may not really know personally). We even turn off when people get together. Rather than talking directly to each other, a text message is sufficient. Taking selfies and posting becomes the substitute for relationship.

That leads to the basic question – what are we teaching our children?

The hardest part of a relationship is showing up. But that is about equal to the other part of that relationship – making it a place where your spouse or partner wants to show up. There is responsibility on both sides. When we allow it to spiral out of control – and we are the ones that let it happen on all levels – relationships are lost and the moment to teach a child about relating to others in the world is also diminished. They soon learn that relationships and people are disposable parts of their lives.

What lesson should we teach children?


By: Armand & Robbin D’Alo