Dr. John Gottman had the idea to study how happy and unhappy couples talk to each other, and compare. About 40 years later, we know a LOT. For example, there are four primary ways that couples communicate destructively: by criticizing (“here’s what’s wrong with you”), getting defensive (“no I’m not/no I didn’t/no, but here’s what’s wrong with YOU), stonewalling (aka stonefacing) and being scornful (“you disgust me”).
Best antidote? Build a “culture of appreciation.” Talk about what you love about your partner (“I love how you crack people up”), catch them doing something right (“man, you said that better than I would have”).
Here’s a DVD I highly recommend to all the couples we work with.