All relationships require effort/intention to keep it on the right track; there is a constant tension within the emotional ecology of each person in the relationship, between the forces that hold them together and those that tear them apart. Even in so-called “stable” relationships, there needs to be a vigilance for the early warning signs that tell of the beginning signs of shunted energy leading toward a dead end.
The Four Horsemen, as described by John Gottman, Ph.D., in his research and writings, are disastrous ways of interacting that sabotage attempts to communicate effectively with another person. They are deadly qualities to all relationship, including marital, not so much because of their unpleasantness but because of the intense way they interfere with communications. As each horseman arrives, he paves the way for the next. They create a continuing cycle of discord and negativity that’s hard to break through if the participant’s don’t know what is happening.
1. Criticism (attacking someone’s personality or character, rather than a specific behavior - usually with blame): “You’re the type of person who always finds fault.” “You don’t care.” “You’re boring.” “I trusted you to balance the checkbook and you let me down - you’re irresponsible!”
2. Contempt (the intention to insult and psychologically abuse the other person): Hostile Humor. Insults and Name-calling. Mockery. Body Language
3. Defensiveness: Denying responsibility. Making Excuses. Disagreeing with Negative Mind Reading. Cross-complaining. Rubber Man/Rubber Woman. Yes-Butting. Repeating Yourself. Whining. Body-Language.
4. Stonewalling: Disengaging. Pulling away. Disconnecting.
Stopping the escalating develop of the four-horsemen:
• ‘Handle’ complaints before they are turned into criticisms, contempt,
defensiveness and stonewalling - listen without judgment & have
complaints turned into requests.
• Seek ‘1st to understand’ and then to be understood
• STOP ALL criticisms - make them unacceptable in the ground rules.
• Remember it’s about the behavior, not the person!
• Apply Win-Win Problem-solving process to conflicts.
• Seek to create a safe environment for full self-expression.
• Remember all behavior has a positive intention behind it, and the
intention is just as important as the actual behavior.
• Speak and seek the truth - it will set you free.
• When progress is difficult, seek therapy.