Psychologist Dr. John Gottman can predict with 91% accuracy if a relationship is going to end. His prognosis is based on observing the couple fight. After devoting his life to studying couples, Dr. Gottman found that those who separate tend to argue in 4 specific ways which he calls the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse of Love.
5 Fun Facts knows how hard it can be to make a relationship last so we decided to share the key to living happily ever after with all of you.
Criticism is a way of dealing with a problem that involves attacking and blaming the other person as a whole. When you criticize your partner, you are implying that there is something wrong and unchangeable about them, especially since criticism is often paired with the words “always” and “never.” This leaves your partner feeling attacked and rejected, and with no other way to respond but defensively. If you usually find yourself saying things like “you never care” or “you’re always so selfish,” you may be a frequent user of criticism.
If you want to change this behavior, psychologists at the Gottman Institute recommend the following antidote:
- Describe the situation without being judgemental (ditch the use of “always” and “never”).
- Express as clearly as possible how you feel about it.
- Ask for what you need in a positive way.
Note that this is not a predictor of a breakup, but it is still a dangerous horseman because it paves the way for the deathliest horsemen of all — contempt.
In his 4 decades of research, Dr. Gottman found that contempt is the number one predictor of divorce. When you communicate in contempt you are truly mean to your partner and your aim is to show disrespect. If you’re used to mockery, sarcasm, name-calling, and eye-rolling, then you’re a frequent user of contempt. It’s very damaging because it makes your partner feel worthless, insignificant, and affects people so deeply that research shows it weakens their immune system.
The antidote to this pervasive behavior is two-fold:
- The next time you argue, you and your partner should lower your tolerance for contemptuous comments and behavior.
- Work on building a culture of appreciation. Contempt appears when a person focuses on the qualities they dislike in their partner so you need to do exactly the opposite. Concentrate on the things you treasure about your partner and write something that you are grateful for in your relationship every day.
The third horseman is defensiveness, and it’s usually a response to criticism. It implies that you’re making excuses and playing the innocent victim, sometimes even blaming your partner so that they’ll back off. However, this is not helpful nor does it work because your excuses just send the message that you don’t take your partner’s concerns seriously and you don’t want to take responsibility for your actions.
If you usually say things like, “I didn’t do anything wrong” or “It’s not my fault, it’s your fault,” then you may be a typical user of defensiveness. If you want to change that attitude you should try this antidote recommended by the Gottman Institute:
- Take some time to actively listen to your partner.
- Take responsibility when you should.
- Say you’re sorry in an honest way.
Stonewalling sometimes arises when the negativity of the first 3 horsemen accumulates to the point that they become overwhelming. It occurs when you put a wall between you and your partner by withdrawing from the argument, shutting down from any attempt to start the conversation again, and distancing yourself physically and emotionally.
Stonewalling is destructive because it leaves your partner feeling rejected and abandoned. lf during an argument you tend to walk away abruptly and try to act busy as you give your partner the “silent treatment”, then you are a perfect example of stonewalling. Luckily for you and your partner, you can try this technique:
If you need some time to approach an issue, you’d better take a few deep breaths and collect your thoughts. Tell your partner you need a moment, and continue the conversation when you’re ready. Only this way will your partner understand that you are trying to take care of yourself and your relationship and not trying to reject them.
Are you thinking of making some changes to help make your relationship thrive? Do you have any tips on how to make disagreements less painful? Tell us in the comments!
Preview photo credit Revolutionary Road / Dreamworks