Healthy Marriages, Relationship Tips

Gottman’s 4 Horsemen and Communication Styles

Great info from an article found on [The Gottman Institute’s Blog]


The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a metaphor depicting the end of times in the New Testament. They describe conquest, war, hunger, and death respectively. Dr. Gottman uses this metaphor to describe communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship.

The first horseman of the apocalypse is criticism. Criticizing your partner is different than offering a critique or voicing a complaint. The latter two are about specific issues, whereas the former is an ad hominem attack. It is an attack on your partner at the core. In effect, you are dismantling his or her whole being when you criticize.

  • 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. I don’t believe you are that forgetful, you’re just selfish! You never think of others! You never think of me!”

If you find that you are your partner are critical of each other, don’t assume your relationship is doomed to fail. The problem with criticism is that, when it becomes pervasive, it paves the way for the other, far deadlier horsemen. It makes the victim feel assaulted, rejected, and hurt, and often causes the perpetrator and victim to fall into an escalating pattern where the first horseman reappears with greater and greater frequency and intensity.

The second horseman is contempt. When we communicate in this state, we are truly mean – treating others with disrespect, mocking them with sarcasm, ridicule, name-calling, mimicking, and/or body language such as eye-rolling. The target of contempt is made to feel despised and worthless.

“You’re ‘tired?’ Cry me a river. I’ve been with the kids all day, running around like mad to keep this house going and all you do when you come home from work is flop down on that sofa like a child and play those idiotic computer games. I don’t have time to deal with another kid – try to be more pathetic…” 

In his research, Dr. Gottman found that couples that are contemptuous of each other are more likely to suffer from infectious illness (colds, the flu, etc.) than others, as their immune systems weaken! Contempt is fueled by long-simmering negative thoughts about the partner – which come to a head in the perpetrator attacking the accused from a position of relative superiority. Contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce according to Dr. Gottman’s work. It must be eliminated.

The third horseman is defensiveness. We’ve all been defensive. This horseman is nearly omnipresent when relationships are on the rocks. When we feel accused unjustly, we fish for excuses so that our partner will back off. Unfortunately, this strategy is almost never successful. Our excuses just tell our partner that we don’t take them seriously, trying to get them to buy something that they don’t believe, that we are blowing them off.

  • She: “Did you call Betty and Ralph to let them know that we’re not coming tonight as you promised this morning?”
  • He: “I was just too darn busy today. As a matter of fact you know just how busy my schedule was. Why didn’t you just do it?”

He not only responds defensively, but turns the table and makes it her fault. A non-defensive response would have been:

“Oops, I forgot. I should have asked you this morning to do it because I knew my day would be packed. Let me call them right now.” 

Although it is perfectly understandable for the male to defend himself in the example given above, this approach doesn’t have the desired effect. The attacking spouse does not back down or apologize. This is because defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner.

The fourth horseman is stonewalling. Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction. In other words, stonewalling is when one person shuts down and closes himself/herself off from the other. It is a lack of responsiveness to your partner and the interaction between the two of you.  Rather than confronting the issues (which tend to accumulate!) with our partner, we make evasive maneuvers such as tuning out, turning away, acting busy, or engaging in obsessive behaviors. It takes time for the negativity created by the first three horsemen to become overwhelming enough that stonewalling becomes an understandable “out,” but when it does, it frequently becomes a habit.

Pay close attention the next time you find yourself engaged in a difficult conversation with your partner, a friend, or even with your children. See if you can spot any of The Four Horsemen, and try to observe their effects on the people involved.

Being able to identify The Four Horsemen in your conflict discussions is a necessary first step to eliminating them, but this knowledge is not enough. To drive away destructive communication patterns, you must replace them with healthy, productive ones. Click here to learn about the antidotes.


I did not write the above article.

article source: https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-four-horsemen-recognizing-criticism-contempt-defensiveness-and-stonewalling/

Healthy Marriages

“Keeping your marriage healthy”

This article from [www.apa.org] provides some “basics” on maintaining good relationships:


Romantic relationships are important for our happiness and well-being. Yet with more than 40 percent of new marriages ending in divorce, it’s clear that relationships aren’t always easy.1 Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep your romantic partnership in good working order.

Talking openly

Communication is a key piece of healthy relationships. Healthy couples make time to check in with one another on a regular basis. It’s important to talk about more than just parenting and maintaining the household, however. Try to spend a few minutes each day discussing deeper or more personal subjects to stay connected to your partner over the long term.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid bringing up difficult subjects. Keeping concerns or problems to yourself can breed resentment. When discussing tough topics, though, it pays to be kind. Researchers have found that communication style is more important than commitment levels, personality traits or stressful life events in predicting whether happily married couples will go on to divorce. In particular, negative communication patterns such as anger and contempt are linked to an increased likelihood of splitting up.2

Disagreements are part of any partnership, but some fighting styles are particularly damaging. Couples that use destructive behavior during arguments — such as yelling, resorting to personal criticisms or withdrawing from the discussion — are more likely to break up than are couples that fight constructively. Examples of constructive strategies for resolving disagreements include attempting to find out exactly what your partner is feeling, listening to his or her point of view and trying to make him or her laugh.3

Keeping it interesting

Between kids, careers and outside commitments, it can be difficult to stay connected to your partner. Yet there are good reasons to make the effort. In one study, for example, researchers found couples that reported boredom during their seventh year of marriage were significantly less satisfied with their relationships nine years later.4

To keep things interesting, some couples plan regular date nights. Even dates can get old, though, if you’re always renting a movie or going to the same restaurant. Experts recommend breaking out of the routine and trying new things — whether that’s going dancing, taking a class together or packing an afternoon picnic.

Intimacy is also a critical component of romantic relationships. Some busy couples find it helpful to schedule sex by putting it on the calendar. It may not be spontaneous to have it written in red ink, but setting aside time for an intimate encounter helps ensure that your physical and emotional needs are met.

When should couples seek help?

Every relationship has ups and downs, but some factors are more likely than others to create bumps in a relationship. Finances and parenting decisions often create recurring conflicts, for example. One sign of a problem is having repeated versions of the same fight over and over. In such cases, psychologists can help couples improve communication and find healthy ways to move beyond the conflict.

You don’t have to wait until a relationship shows signs of trouble before working to strengthen your union. Marital education programs that teach skills such as good communication, effective listening and dealing with conflict have been shown to reduce the risk of divorce.

References

1 Kreider, R. M. (2005). Number, timing, and duration of marriages and divorces: 2001. Current Population Reports. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau.

2 Lavner, J.A. & Bradbury, T.N. (2012). “Why do even satisfied newlyweds eventually go on to divorce?” Journal of Family Psychology, 26 (1): 1-10.

3 Birditt, K.S., Brown, E., Orbuch, T.L., and McIlvane, J.M. (2010). “Marital conflict behaviors and implications for divorce over 16 years.” Journal of Marriage and Family, 72 (5): 1188-1204.

4 Tsapelas, I., Aron, A., and Orbuch, T. (2009). “Marital boredom now predicts less satisfaction 9 years later.” Psychological Science, 20 (5): 543-545.

Thanks to psychologists Robin S. Haight, PsyD, and Dan Abrahamson, PhD, who assisted with this article.

Article source: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/healthy-relationships.aspx