After four decades of research tracking 3,000 couples, Dr. John Gottman compared the communication habits of couples who stayed married with couples who divorced within 15 years. He isolated four behaviors that unhappy couples use which predict divorce with 94 percent accuracy. That may seem outlandish, but it’s backed up by solid research.
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
1. Criticism: Attacking your partner’s character with the intent of making him or her wrong. Your sentences start with “you always…” “you never…“you’re the kind of person who …”
2. Contempt: With an attitude of superiority, you attack your partner’s sense of self, intentionally insulting him or her. Words can hurt as much as physical violence. Contempt may include emotional, verbal and psychological abuse.
• You don’t feel guilty calling your partner names or cursing.
• You think that hostile humor, sarcasm or mockery is OK.
• Your body language & tone of voice may include sneering, glaring, or rolling your eyes.
3. Defensiveness: You feel like a victim, trying to protect yourself from an attack by the enemy.
• Frequent comments include: “It’s not my fault.” “I didn’t do it.” “If you hadn’t done X, I wouldn’t have done Y.” “That’s not true, you’re the one who …” “It’s not fair.”
• Cross-complaining: when your partner complains, you don’t try to understand. Instead, you fire off a complaint of your own, dismissing what your partner said.
• Yes-butting: You start off by agreeing but end up disagreeing, ignoring your partner’s feelings.
• You keep repeating yourself, hoping your partner will get it this time. You don’t validate anything your partner says.
4. Stonewalling: You withdraw from the relationship because you are uncomfortable with conflict. You hope your partner will stop talking if you don’t add fuel to the fire. Although your intentions may be good, stonewalling severs the emotional connection in your relationship, and that’s never a good thing.
If you would like to learn how to repair a relationship by replacing the Four Horsemen with healthy communication, please Contact me for Marriage Counseling, Couples Counseling, Pre-marital Counseling and Dating advice. I’ll help you get it right this time.
Benita A. Esposito, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor
Flourishing Lives for S.M.A.R.T. Women and the Men Who Love Them
(Spiritual + Mature + Authentic + Responsible + Trustworthy)
Reference: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver. Purchase the revised edition 2015.