Even loving couples experience problems from time to time. Communication can help or hurt. According to John Gottman, PhD, the way couples argue can reveal a lot about the future of the relationship. Arguments or fights are not predictive of divorce, but what people do to repair the conflict is. Gottman believes there are four behaviors that are damaging to relationships: criticism, stonewalling (withdrawing from a discussion), contempt, and defensiveness. These negative ways of interacting sabotage positive feelings and leave partners angry, alone, and frustrated. Learning to avoid these behaviors can help resolve conflicts and enhance communication and closeness.

Are you or your partner guilty of any of these communication styles?

  • Criticizing your partner’s opinions, feelings, or desires
  • Putting down the thoughts, feelings, actions, or worth of your partner
  • Name calling
  • Insensitivity
  • Stonewalling
  • Making accusations
  • Avoiding disagreements or important discussions
  • Disregarding your partner’s feelings or opinions
  • Withdrawing from conflicts
  • Bringing up past hurts

Signs of relationship stress:

  • Attempts at conversation are often met with silence
  • Conversations often end in an argument or with hurt feelings
  • Frequent arguments about raising the children
  • Frequent arguments about alcohol consumption
  • Hurt feelings from the past are dragged up during an argument
  • Little time is spent relaxing, being playful or romantic

Enhanced communication, mutual empathy, and closeness can often lessen these problems. If you and your partner are experiencing these or any other issues of concern please call our office at 617-353-5381 to schedule a consultation.

Some related links:


There are times when it becomes necessary for couples to seek a separation or divorce. Whether or not children are involved, this is rarely an easy process, and even the most amicable of separations are painful. If you are going through a separation or divorce, it may be helpful to talk through some of the issues and learn what resources are available to you. The FSAO can assist you by providing referrals to individual therapy, couples counseling, and community-based resources. Even if you are already in the process of separating, it may be useful to have a couples counselor help you and your spouse/partner to communicate effectively. Please call the office to schedule an appointment or to speak with someone over the phone.

Some links related to separation or divorce:


If you (or someone you know) are experiencing a boyfriend or girlfriend, partner, or spouse behaving in any of the following ways, you (or they) may be the victim in an emotionally and/or physically abusive relationship:

  • Actual or threatened physical harm
  • Disrespect
  • Harassment
  • Inability to control anger
  • Intimidation
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Name calling, put-downs
  • Sexual assault
  • Withholding money

You may need to reach out for information and assistance. Call us at 617-353-5381. We can help!