Many of my conversations during this last month, both personal and professional, surrounded the big and loaded word called “relationship”.
I decided to post here the four predictors of relationship failure called the Four Horsemen (coined by marriage researcher J. Gottman).
If you want to gain more awareness into your relationship dynamics, own your protective mechanism, or evaluate the direction of your marriage, read the following and begin to pay attention to the interplay of the “four horsemen” as they sound and surface in your own relationship.
1) Criticism: attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent to prove him/her wrong, or empower yourself and disempower the partner.
- Generalizations, such as “you always”, You never”, “All you do is”, “Why are you so…”.
2) Contempt: Attacking your partner sense of self, psychologically abusing/insulting the partner.
- Insults and name calling “lazy”, “useless”, “stupid”, “bitch”.
- Sarcasm and hostile mockery and humor
- Body language and tone of voice: sneering, rolling eyes etc.
3) Defensiveness: Seeing self as the victim to ward of attack.
- Lack of ownership, attributing to external circumstances. “It’s not my fault”, “it’s not me who has the problem”.
- Cross complaining: playing ‘ping-pong’ with complaints, meeting partner’s complaint or criticism with one of your own, not listening to partner or ignoring what has been said. “That’s not true, you’re the one who…”
- Yes-Butting: starting with agreeing and ending with disagreeing.
4) Stonewalling: withdrawing from the relationship in order to avoid conflict. Stonewalling may appear as “being neutral”, but conveys distance, emotional disconnect, disapproval, separation.
- Silence treatment, or stony silence.
- Changing the subject
- Physically removing oneself.
Most of this is not taught anywhere and couples don’t necessarily know how the presence of the Four Horsemen hinder the experience and quality of their relationship.
Often, couples seek help when all four have been present for a long time and conflict has escalated to a painful level.
Here are two very short videos on the topic:
The Mental Divorce begins (1.21 minutes)