At some point, every person who has entered into a relationship has struggled with the question if it’s worth pursuing; this has a significant impact on married couples; and to a lesser degree, individuals who are dating or newly engaged might face similar doubts. Regardless, relationships can become time-consuming, expensive, and psychologically destructive depending on the individuals’ maturity levels.
Now that the worse is said, let’s turned our attention to psychologist Dr. John Gottman to see what he might have to offer. Gottman is a well-known contemporary expert on relationships, having spent over four decades researching what variables lead newlywed to divorce.
Gottman has conducted over 3,000 interviews with married couples. Their answers helped him develop a questionnaire that he says predicts 96 percent accuracy, which couples are likely to divorce. Gottman and his wife, Dr. Julie Schwartz Gottman, founded The Gottman Institute. Their primary interest is giving couples improved skills to either maintain a satisfying marriage or assist them in repairing a damaged one. As part of his clinical practice and in-depth research, Gottman discovered that if newlyweds ( I assume all couples) engaged in what he coined the “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” on a regular basis, the end would not be pretty.
What does the “four horsemen” consist of:
Using the words: “You always” or “you never” are common ways to criticize. Your partner is most likely to feel under attack and to respond defensively. This is a dangerous pattern to get into because neither person feels heard, and both may begin to feel bad about themselves in the presence of the other.”
“We treat others with disrespect, mock them with sarcasm, ridicule, call them names, and mimic or use body language such as eye-rolling or scoffing. The target of contempt is made to feel despised and worthless.”
“When you attempt to defend yourself from a perceived attack with a counter-complaint, you are being defensive. Another way to be defensive is to whine like an innocent victim. Unfortunately, defensiveness keeps partners from taking responsibility for problems and escalates negative communication.”
“Stonewalling happens when the listener withdraws from the conversation. The Stonewaller might actually physically leave, or they might just stop tracking the conversation and appear to shut down. The Stonewaller may look like he doesn’t care, that usually isn’t the case. Typically, they are overwhelmed and are trying to calm themselves. Unfortunately, this seldom works because the partner is likely to assume they don’t care enough about the problem to talk about it. It can be a vicious circle with one person demanding to talk and the other looking for an escape.”
Clearly, every relationship has some signs of “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.”
However, suppose these patterns present themselves time and time again over months and years; in that case, one or both of the partners are best to jump on the next horse and ride into the sunset with the hopes of finding a brighter future alone or with someone new.
Gottman is the author (and co-author) of over forty books; a few are:
What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal
Why Marriages Succeed or Fail
10 Principles for Doing Effective Couples Therapy
The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert