John Gottman, a researcher and clinician, founded the Gottman Institute dedicated to saving and enriching marriage relationships.
One aspect he looks for in marriages is the existence of what he calls the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse which is a metaphor depicting the end times in the New Testament. They describe conquest, war, hunger and death. He uses this metaphor to describe communication styles that will kill a relationship.
Being aware of these communication styles in your marriage and correcting them can help save your marriage and bring a new connection between you and your partner.
What are the 4 Horsemen?
- Criticism – now this is not a complaint or disagreement with your partner , this is an attack, an attack on their character, who they are. The Gottman Institute explains the difference this way:
Complaint: “I was scared when you were running late and didn’t call me. I thought we had agreed that we would do that for each other.”
Criticism: “You never think about how your behavior is affecting other people. You’re just selfish! You never think of me!
- Contempt – here we treat others with disrespect, ridicule them, call them names. Here the recipient feels worthless. Gottman gives this example –
You’re tired? Cry me a river. I’ve been with the kids all day, running around like mad, keeping everything going and all you do when you come home from work is flop down on that sofa like a child and play those ridiculous video games. Could you be anymore pathetic?”
Gottman makes the note that contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce. It must be eliminated.
- Defensiveness – when we are defensive to our partner’s questions, it tells them we don’t take their concerns seriously and we won’t take responsibility
Gottman gives this example:
Question – Did you call Betty and Ralph today to tell them we are not coming tonight like you promised this morning?
Defensive – “I was just too darn busy today. You know how busy my schedule is. Why didn’t you just do it?”
- Stonewalling – this is when the listener withdraws from the interaction, shuts down or simply stops responding. Stonewalling is a result of feeling physiologically flooded and we may not be in a state to discuss things rationally. If so, stop the discussion and ask your partner for a break. After you are calm then return to the conversation.
If you identify any of these 4 Horsemen trampling your relationship, reach out for help. You can go to the Gottman Institute (gottman.com) for more information or think about pursuing some marriage counseling. You and your relationship are worth it.
If you identify any of the 4 Horsemen in your relationship, call us at 936-524-7523 or go to www.thecenterforhopeandhealing.net.