Dr. John Gottman has a reputation. He can observe a couple for 15 minutes in disagreement and predict with 93% accuracy whether the pair will stay married or get divorced. When he is observing these couples he is thin-slicing information regarding the presence, frequency, and intensity of what he calls The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
What are these 4 Horsemen?
Every relationship will have them from time to time. But when they run amuck, a marriage indulging in them, the outcome is bleak.
Criticism is just what it sounds like. A partner makes a complaint about their spouse in a way that is critical, as though something was wrong with them. Obviously, this stance might be interpreted as an attack and does not invite open communication.
Contempt is criticism taken to a whole new level. It can be expressed as sarcasm or even without a word through facial expressions and eye rolling. Contempt expresses a dislike of the other person. It may even vilify them.
Defensiveness is an instinctive response to feeling criticized but can happen in the absence of criticism. When we feel misunderstood or believe that the other person is saying we are somehow defective we respond by refuting their words, offering explanations, or justification.
Stonewalling is when one shuts down and withdraws. On the outside, it may look like indifference. Often when someone stonewalls the partner will turn up the volume, even more, thinking that the other person does not care. And yet, the opposite is true. The partner may care very much but is emotionally flooded and so they detach and shut down. Stonewalling may happen unintentionally or it may be an intentional way of avoiding conflict.
Now that I have introduced you to the 4 Horseman pay attention to which ones are you are most likely to invite into your conversations.
The next 4 days, I will share with you the antidotes to these 4 habits so you can take them captive and create a thought life about your partner that serves you well.