Healthy Marriages, Spiritual Disciplines

Learning to Pray with your Wife

I found this article on Family Life’s website.   Great approach to creating the discipline of daily prayer with your spouse.  I checked out the link at the end, and it is active.  Enjoy:


It has always been a struggle for my wife and me to pray together. Over eight years of marriage we have never been able to fall into a solid routine. We could string a few days together or maybe a few weeks, but then there would be that inevitable lull where we just stopped.

There is never a great reason. We were too busy. We just forgot. There was a basketball game on. We had a rough time getting our son to bed. We were watching TV.

Do you and your wife pray together? I am talking about more than just before you start eating your meal. Do you take focused time to pray intentionally with each other?

As the spiritual head of our house, I believe it is my responsibility to initiate our prayer time together. This has always been a tough assignment for me. But I am determined to grow.

Dennis Rainey, the president of FamilyLife, is always encouraging married couples to pray together. In fact, he describes this as the best marriage advice he has ever received. One of his mentors, Carl Wilson, told him, “I’ve prayed every day with my wife Sara Jo for more than 25 years. Nothing has built up our marriage more than our prayer time together.”

Dennis wrote a prayer devotional book to help couples called Two Hearts Praying as One. He describes prayer as the single most important spiritual discipline you and your spouse will ever share.

I deeply desire a prayer life with my wife that is consistent, so I decided to try going through Dennis’s 30-day prayer journey. My wife and I committed to each other to work through it together. Below I have included some of my thoughts while going through the devotional with my wife, after which I have listed a few tips I learned through the 30-day journey.

Day 1: We actually started the prayer journey with an argument. I was nervous about starting and sabotaged the time by accusing her of feeling uncomfortable with praying in front of me. It didn’t help that she made a few comments about how many times we have tried to pray consistently together but have never gotten very far. It was weird. In spite of it, we pushed forward and made it through the first day. I wouldn’t describe this day as a spiritual victory, but at least we got started.

Day 5: Hearing each other pray out loud is getting more comfortable. Our prayer is beginning to feel and sound more authentic rather than manufactured. I’ve always felt we have a great marriage, but we discovered a depth that has never been present. Tonight we were able to voice some of our personal struggles with infertility in a way that has never happened before. Five days in a row!

Days 9 and 10: These days held our biggest challenge thus far. I left town for work and was gone for two days, working long hours. We were finally able to talk and pray on the phone with each other around 10:30 the first night. The next evening we were able to pray together on the phone earlier. Emily read the devotional and I listened over the phone. This was a great accomplishment because previously in our marriage, distance between us usually resulted in a lack of intimate talk and prayer. We are excited for the oneness habits we are building.

Day 17: Not going to lie. We almost missed this day. I left early in the afternoon with some friends to watch a basketball game and was gone the rest of the night. Emily and I had completely forgotten to plan our prayer time. Fortunately, the Lord used our 2-year-old son to remind us. About 10 minutes before I left, he came walking out of our room with our journal. He told us that he was going to read to us. We stopped right there, read the devotional, and prayed together thanking the Lord for the reminder through our son.

Day 18: Going to bed tonight, my mind was preoccupied with watching the weather reports about a string of storms spawning tornadoes coming through our area. Emily gently reminded me of our need to pray together and opened the devotional to read. She then led us in prayer. Afterward, she turned and fell asleep; I continued to keep an eye on the severity of the storms headed our way. I am thankful for the selfless team effort my wife exemplified. I am once again reminded of the beauty of a marriage where both people are attempting to pursue Christ together. Sometimes there is need for one person to persevere when the other slacks. Thank you, Lord, for my wife.

Day 30: We have completed the 30-day prayer devotional. Through the last 10 days of the journal we missed reading the book each day, but we found ourselves disciplined to spend the time praying together even without the devotional. One of the final prayer points from this final day was, “Thank God for helping you establish the pattern of praying together regularly.” This journey has benefited us by helping us establish regular prayer together each day. The habit has been set. I am thankful to the Lord for my wife, the one with whom I can pray each day.

Here are some tips I learned through the prayer journey with Two Hearts Praying as One, in no particular order:

  1. As men, we are called to lead in our marriage. Although every marriage relationship looks a little different, men need to be the ones to lead their family by example, in encouragement, and in prayer.
  2. Find the time of day that works best for you. This could look different for each couple.
  3. Read through Scripture and pray the passage out loud. This builds oneness with each other and with God’s Word.
  4. Build oneness through holding hands during your prayer.
  5. Spend enough time talking about joys, fears, problems, and accomplishments in life before you pray. Make sure you are on the same page with your wife.
  6. It’s okay to use help for your routine. Two Hearts Praying as One was great for us. It forced us into a normal routine with biblically-centered conversation before we went before the throne. It is okay to pray together without the aid of a prayer journal or devotional, but every once in a while it is helpful to use the aid.
  7. Don’t forget to whom you are talking. It helps me to picture myself bowing before the throne with Jesus’ hand on my shoulder as we talk to God seated on the throne.
  8. Pray even when in disagreement. Usually men just need to admit their pride and step away from the argument. This is an opportunity to humble yourself, apologize, demonstrate forgiveness, and be the leader.
  9. Having your own personal, thriving relationship with Jesus is crucial to leading your wife in prayer. That’s just part of leadership.
  10. When you miss a day, just accept God’s grace anew, seek forgiveness, and start again. There’s no shame in this game.

If you’d like to make a habit of praying with your spouse but need help getting started, why not join us for FamilyLife’s Oneness Prayer Challenge? We’ll deliver Scripture and prayer prompts to your inbox or your phone for 30 days for you and your spouse to go through together. Sign up today!

Copyright © 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.


article source: https://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/staying-married/growing-spiritually/learning-to-pray-with-my-wife/

Healthy Marriages, Relationship Tips

Tips for Making your Relationship Last (Tip #3)

Strengthening your marriage relationship does not have to be complicated or expensive. Throwing money at problems rarely brings the desired result. For instance, getting counseling just to say that you are “in counseling” is not going to save your marriage or solve any problems. You must do the work – not just when times are bad, but along the way to keep the relationship alive and moving forward in health.

The next few posts will consist of a few tips to keep your relationships going strong.

[TIP #3] Talk about more than the chores

Talking is important and required for communication to happen.  (not rocket science, huh?)  Just talking, however,  is not necessarily equivalent to communicating.

Most couples think they are communicating when they are merely delegating responsibilities necessary to take care of their household.

Being cordial and polite to one another in conversation is a good idea and helpful to do, but it cannot be the only type of talking between the two of you.  What you talk about is just, if not more, important than how you talk to one another.  Couples who are the most content in their relationship spend time discussing their fears, their hopes, and their dreams.  These couples are doing better because they are using verbal communication to learn one another more intimately.

Talking about “who you are” as individuals and “who you are” as a couple helps spouses understand themselves and their partners better.  Through doing this, you can define your family’s purpose and mission in life – which brings a sense of “us” that may have been lacking.  Another benefit of this type of communication is that it creates a “team” feeling in the couple as they face life together.

According to an article on the Gottman relationship blog entitled “Create Shared Meaning with a Culture Covenant”, writing a “culture covenant” (written list of values as a couple and family) is among the most effective ways to create shared meaning in a marriage.  The authors, David and Constantino Khalaf, define family culture as “the unspoken rules and ways of interacting with each other that shape interpersonal dynamics.”

“All families and couples have a culture, whether or not it is intentionally crafted.” – David and Constantino Khalaf

Below is a sample of the covenant tents listed in the article:

  • We value vulnerability. It’s okay to express the full range of emotions.
  • We help each other laugh at least once a day. And we help each other cry—if it seems we’re bottling something up—as needed.
  • We acknowledge that personal growth means change, and we never want to stop getting to know each other.
  • We want to serve others. We pour into our relationship so that we have the energy to pour out.
  • We yield to each other. No one gets the final say all the time.

-To read the entire article, click here- 

Knowing what legacy you want to leave before you even have children will guarantee you pass on what you intend.  But don’t worry… if you have children already, it is never too late to instill purpose in your marriage and in your children.  If your children have already left the home, focus on your grandchildren or on how you can best help your kids succeed in life.  Whatever the case may be for you, defining “who you are” as a couple and dreaming together will only bring you closer to the relational and emotional intimacy you are seeking.

 


Some of the ideas from this post came from this article:

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/04/marriage.aspx

Healthy Marriages, Relationship Tips

Tips for Making your Relationship Last (Tip #2)

Strengthening your marriage relationship does not have to be complicated or expensive. Throwing money at problems rarely brings the desired result. For instance, getting counseling just to say that you are “in counseling” is not going to save your marriage or solve any problems. You must do the work – not just when times are bad, but along the way to keep the relationship alive and moving forward in health.

The next few posts will consist of a few tips to keep your relationships going strong.

[TIP #2] Fight Fairly.

Knowing how to fight is just as important as knowing how to resolve conflict.  When fighting with your spouse (and yes, this is normal behavior for married people) you need to be aware of why your are fighting.  If your goal, in the fight, is to win – you have already lost.  The goal in fighting should be to understand one another and not necessarily to agree.  It is okay to disagree in marriage.  At times you will have to agree to disagree on certain specific topics.

You do not need to agree on everything to have a fulfilling and happy marriage.

A common misconception is that a person must “agree” with your viewpoint in order to “understand” you.  This belief is steeped in bad thought.  Why do I need to agree with someone to understand them?  Consider this example:  John is convinced that coffee should be consumed black, without cream or sweetener.  Susie, on the other hand, doggedly asserts that “coffee is just not coffee without cream and sugar.”  Which one is right?  Which one is wrong?

Surprisingly, the answer is both are right and both are wrong.  In this example, we are discussing preferences – not moral truths.  [Telling the truth vs. lies, for example].  If a person only feels affirmed and “heard” if another person “agrees” with their point of view; then that person will likely feel rejected by anyone who disagrees with them – potentially about anything.

Yes, this is an extreme example, but purposefully so.  This dynamic exists in all relationships, and is the subject matter of many a discussion in my work with couples.  In our attempt to persuade our partner to our point of view, we may stoop to name calling and the hurling of insults to “convince” them of our “rightness.”  In the end, we are merely submitting to our own pride and carnal natures when we allow this to happen.

How can this be dynamic be avoided or minimized in our relationships?  Here is one strategy:

Sit down with your significant other and devise your “rules of war.”  Talk about what can and cannot be said in a disagreement.  Literally, devise your “rules for fair fighting,” and commit to following them.  Below is a sample list of “rules for fair fighting.”

  1. No name calling

  2. No interrupting

  3. No blaming or making accusations

  4. No cussing

  5. No yelling

  6. No sarcasm or “witty” insults

  7. No defending of your actions

  8. No generalizations (“you always…”  or “you never…”)

  9. No physical, emotional, or verbal intimidating gestures/actions/threats

  10. No walking out without rescheduling a time to “finish” or follow up on the argument

 

According to John Gottman, PhD, and founder of the Gottman Institute, 69% of conflict in marriage goes unresolved.  It is not whether or not couples have conflict that is important; rather, it is how they handle conflict that determines the quality of their relationships.

The people who have stable, happy relationships are much gentler with one another than people who have unhappy relationships or break up.” – John Gottman

Ephesians 4:31-32 speaks to how we should treat one another in relationships:

31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Start here: Choose to treat your spouse better than you want to be treated.  Approach them with love and tenderness in all conversations; even the “loud” ones.

A great resource to consider in learning how to covey love to your spouse is the classic from Gary Chapman: The Five Love Languages.  His website offers a free version of the assessment to determine your spouses and your love language.

The 5 Love Languages

 


Some of the ideas from this post came from this article:

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/04/marriage.aspx

Healthy Marriages, Relationship Tips

Meaningless words?

Great article on the power of our words.  Found this on the blog at Focus on the Family.  Enjoy: 


I had been out of town for three days. When I returned, I found that my wife had one of the chairs in our bedroom reupholstered. She asked, “How do you like it?”

I replied, “I like it, but to be honest, I liked the old color better.”

She broke into tears. “I spent two weeks trying to find the right colors,” she said. “I thought you would like it.”

I could have tried to defend my comment, but I said, “I’m sorry, honey. I should have looked more closely before responding. I dolike it, and I appreciate all of your efforts to get the right color.”

After hearing this story, one husband said, “You really did like the former color better. Why should you apologize because she got upset?”

This man’s comments reflect an attitude many husbands have during disagreements with their wife. So they settle for a fractured marriage, refusing to accept responsibility for careless words or ill-thought actions.

Every marriage has areas that are working well and areas that could use improvement. In order to have a healthy marriage, it’s important to evaluate these areas and give them the attention they need. Learn how you can grow and strengthen your marriage »

If I hurt my wife, whether intentionally or unintentionally, I should apologize. When my behavior puts an emotional barrier between my wife and me, it’s my responsibility to try to remove the barrier. Apologizing does not mean that what I did was morally wrong; it means that I am deeply concerned that I have hurt her.

Most wives will respond positively when we admit our mistakes, when we acknowledge our careless comments or our preoccupation with other things.

A gentle approach

So the next time your wife explodes at your behavior, why not say, “Honey, obviously I have hurt you deeply. Tell me why it hurts you so much.” Then listen, express understanding and ask her to forgive you. When she seems emotionally distant, consider responding with, “Honey, I’m wondering if I have done something to hurt you. I sense that something is bothering you, and if I’m the problem, I certainly want to deal with it. I love you.”

Owning our mistakes is the road to marital intimacy.

Dr. Gary Chapman is a pastor, speaker and best-selling author of The Five Love Languages.


Link to original article: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/communication-and-conflict/why-you-should-apologize-for-careless-words

Healthy Marriages, Relationship Tips

Tips for Making your Relationship Last

Strengthening your marriage relationship does not have to be complicated or expensive. Throwing money at problems rarely brings the desired result. For instance, getting counseling just to say that you are “in counseling” is not going to save your marriage or solve any problems. You must do the work – not just when times are bad, but along the way to keep the relationship alive and moving forward in health.

The next few posts will consist of a few tips to keep your relationships going strong.

[TIP #1] Know that small things can yield big results.

In the majority of happy and healthy marriages, both partners feel cared for, appreciated and “special.” This is a quality of the relationship shared by marriages that last long-term. Just telling your spouse “what” you appreciate about them and “why” you love them on a regular basis can increase overall happiness in the relationship and help to prevent divorce.

Many who read this may now be thinking about how important it is to keep the wife feeling “appreciated,” but here is the big “shocker”:

It is actually the men who seem to need affirmations more than women!

Research suggests that men who don’t feel affirmed by their wives were twice as likely to be involved in a divorce. How can this be? Consider the fact that women are much more likely to affirm one another in their friendships and compliment one another than are men in their friend relationships. Men just don’t “affirm” other men on a regular basis.

In most cases, even in Christian marriages, if men do not receive affirmation and encouragement from their wives, they often do not receive it at all. This creates a huge deficit in the area of a basic human need in a man’s life – the need for acceptance and approval. Men who feel respected (what being accepted and approved of creates in a man) are men who know they are loved by their spouses. Men who do not feel respected by their spouses (who feel neglected, dismissed, or de-valued) are those who tend to look for “respect” in “all the wrong places.”

Ephesians 5:33 challenges men to make sure they [love] their wives (=do whatever it takes to communicate and express that which makes them feel “loved.”) and that wives see that they [respect] (=do whatever it takes to communicate and express that which makes them feel “loved.”) their husbands.

What if maintaining mutual love and respect was not as complicated or hard as you thought it was? What if all we need to do is make each other feel valued, appreciated, accepted, and “special?” If that were true, then it could be that we have the ability to strengthen our marriages daily, without any financial expense, and without excessive effort or the loss of large quantities of time.

Start here: Tell your spouse every day that you love them. Tell them every day something that you love about them and compliment them regularly. This simple activity will help your love last.

If you want to learn more about the concept of what communicates love to men and women, I highly recommend the book, “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.

Love and   Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs


Some of the ideas from this post came from this article:

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/04/marriage.aspx

Healthy Marriages, Relationship Tips

Learn to Fight Fair

Great article I found on [www.focusonthefamily.com]:


“You’re trying to change me,” Leslie blurted as we sat down for dinner.

“What are you talking about?” I demanded with as much piety and surprise as I could muster. Truth be told, I knew exactly what she was talking about. I was trying to change her. She knew it. I knew it. I just didn’t want her to know that I knew. It had been tense in our little apartment ever since we got home from work. The issue? Who knows. It happened more than 25 years ago. All I recall is that I’d made some inane comment about not being able to find something I could always find in my kitchen growing up.

“I’m talking about the way you make snippy comments,” Leslie said as she tried to restrain her tears. “No matter what I do, it’s not good enough.”

“That’s not true,” I said defensively. “Give me one good example of how I’m critical.” That was a mistake. For the next several minutes, she’d give a specific example, and I’d attempt to show exactly how reasonable my critical comment was. It was a game of mental pingpong that no one would win. Actually, it was a fight — our first fight as a married couple.

Finally, Leslie said something to end the tiresome bout. “The point is, I’m trying to be a good wife, and I feel like I’m disappointing you.”

“You’re not disappointing me,” I responded in an attempt to keep her from crying. But it was too late to prevent her tears. I sat helpless, not knowing what to do or where to go.

Leslie, on the other hand, knew exactly where she wanted to go — back home. Sitting in that tiny apartment in the middle of Los Angeles, beginning graduate school as well as a marriage, Leslie wanted nothing more than to be somewhere safe and sound. We both did.

We’ll be honest — Leslie and I still have fights. But thankfully, they are less frequent and more productive than they used to be. And in the 25 years since that first real fight, we’ve learned a lot about finding safe, common ground when the fur starts to fly. Here’s what we’ve learned:

Conflict can be good for your marriage

One of the thoughts that went through Leslie’s mind when we had our first fight in that tiny kitchen was that there must be something wrong with us — that loving couples don’t fight. We’ve since learned that this simply isn’t true.

Consider the reasons for marital spats. First, people are not perfect — and neither is the world we live in. While it makes logical sense that there are no perfect marriages, many of us are still surprised when we encounter conflict and expect our marriage to be different. Another factor that adds fuel to the fire of marital fights is the human tendency to resist compromise. Every day, couples have individual desires, big and small, that collide. A compromise is needed if they are ever going to resolve their conflict. Yet for most people, compromise is difficult and conflict is thus inevitable.

But the goal of marriage is not to avoid conflict. Not by a long shot. If handled correctly, conflict can help build a stronger marriage. In fact, we’ve come to believe that conflict is the price smart couples pay for a deepening sense of intimacy. Conflict helps us peel away the superficial layers of a relationship and discover who we really are. When Ruth Graham was asked if she and her famous husband, Billy, ever fight, she said, “I hope so. Otherwise we would have no differences, and life would be pretty boring.”

No matter how deeply a man and woman love each other, they will encounter conflict. It’s a natural component of every healthy marriage. The truth is that buried conflict has a high rate of resurrection. If something is bothering one of you, it is always best to put it out on the table and discuss it. So don’t bury your differences. Instead, view them as a potential source for cultivating a deeper sense of intimacy. Of course, to do this, you must learn to fight fair.

Seeing the world through your spouse’s eyes makes a difference

Several years ago I was conducting a training seminar for elementary school teachers. To help them better understand the world of a third-grader, I gave them the assignment of walking through their classroom on their knees. “I always assumed students were viewing the classroom as I was,” said one teacher. “It looks so different from their perspective.”

We make the same error in marriage when we assume we know what our spouse is experiencing. We don’t. Everyone interprets life from a composite of unique insights and perceptions. Only after entering our spouse’s world with our heart and our head can we accurately understand his or her perspective. To look at life through the same lens means asking two questions: 1) What does this situation, problem or event look or feel like from my spouse’s perspective? and 2) How is his or her perception different from mine? Accurately understanding your spouse’s hurts and hopes will change you. Once you consciously feel his or her feelings and understand his or her perspective, you will see the world differently. And in the majority of cases, empathy is enough to bring a marital conflict to a screeching halt. It sets the stage for two simple words: “I’m sorry.”

An apology can either hinder or help

When one partner blows it and the offense is minor (maybe someone forgets to put gas in the car after promising to do so), a graceful apology is all it takes for the incident to be dropped. At other times, an apology can be surprisingly complicated.

Like lots of couples, one husband and wife we worked with would regularly short-circuit their arguments with hasty apologies. “I said I was sorry for what I did,” one of them would say. “Now why can’t you forget about it and move on?”

This form of apology is really a tool of manipulation. It’s a way of getting off the hook and avoiding the real issue. What’s worse, a premature apology blocks real change. One husband snapped at his wife at a dinner party. Later he said, “I’m sorry, but look, you have to understand that I’ve been under a lot of stress lately.” The husband was avoiding responsibility for his insensitive behavior. What his wife needed to hear was, “I’m sorry. It isn’t right to lash out at you when I’m stressed.” This would have communicated that her husband understood he had hurt her and would try not to do it again.

All couples need a healing mechanism, a way to turn a new page in marriage. Knowing how and when to say you’re sorry can make a big difference. Ask yourself when and how you apologize. Does one of you apologize more than the other? Do you use apologies to whitewash issues? A sincere apology will leave you with a relieved sense of the air being cleared and a renewed feeling of closeness.

Staying focused on the problem is more likely to lead to a resolution

Remember to attack the problem, not the person. Our natural impulse during conflict is to defend and protect our position, not to accommodate the other person. If you accuse your spouse of always making you late, she is probably not going to say, “Oh, you’re right. I’ll be different from now on.” She is more likely to tell you that you only make it worse by pressuring her or that you are too impatient or a hundred other reasons why she is not at fault. You will be far more productive if you focus on the problem of being late and work together, as a team, to devise a way of avoiding it. In other words, separate the problem from the person.

If we were to sum up fighting fair in a single word, it would be cooperate. You must be willing to flex and yield to your spouse. Scripture says, “Wisdom . . . is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). If you cultivate a cooperative attitude with your spouse, you will save yourself and your marriage a lot of unnecessary grief. And you will have found the secret to fighting a good fight.

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are New York Times best-selling authors and the founders of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University.


Tips for Fighting Fair

  • Start your sentences with “I” instead of “You” — “I feel frustrated when we’re late” is easier to hear than “You always make us late.”
  • Keep your fighting away from your kids — unless you model how to resolve it in front of them.
  • Stay clear of “character assassination” — don’t assign negative labels to each other (e.g., “You’re so lazy”).
  • If you need a timeout, take it — but agree on when you’ll come back.
  • Avoid expressing contempt by rolling your eyes or being sarcastic — it’s toxic to your relationship.

For more on fighting fair, watch Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott at “Improving Conflict Resolution.”

For more on fighting fair in marriage, see Dr. Juli Slattery’s article, Fighting Fair and Dr. Greg Smalley’s How Fighting Can Help Your Marriage.


article source: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/communication-and-conflict/learn-to-fight-fair

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/