Beware of the Four Horsemen

20 Mar

Every marriage or significant relationship needs TLC to make sure that cracks do not form in its foundation.

Amazingly, 80% of couples who were divorcing cited “growing part, losing a sense of closeness, not feeling loved and appreciated”as the reason for divorce, according to the California Divorce Mediation Project. Only half that number, attributed the decision to divorce to “severe and intense fighting.”

So, what’s happening to these majority of couples to cause their relationships to deteriorate?

Psychologist, John Gottman, has identified what he terms the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” which are communication styles that are most significant predictors of separation and divorce.

Criticism: speaking negatively about your partner’s character or personality

Being critical implies that there is something wrong with the other person. When criticism becomes a pervasive form of communication, it leaves an opening for the other horsemen to invade the relationship.

Contempt: sarcasm, name calling, cynicism, eye rolling, sneering, mimicking, hostile humor

The goal behind contempt (either verbal or non-verbal) is to make the other person feel worthless.  It easily destroys fondness and admiration between two people and it the greatest predictor of relationship failure.

Defensiveness: defending yourself by blaming your partner

This communication style is disrespectful and turns the tables on the other person.

Stonewalling: turning away from your partner and tuning them out

This approach is about shutting down interaction by withdrawing. It’s also known as the “silent treatment.”

So what can be done if you see these horsemen creeping into your relationship and becoming more prevalent?

Here is a short YouTube video created, by the Gottman Institute, that describes anecdotes for each of these negative communication styles:

And more information can be found on their website.

The most important step in addressing any problem is recognition — perhaps this post is helpful to you or a loved one experiencing a relationship on the rocks.


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