Arguing is a normal part of relationships, given that we all have different opinions and views about the world around us. However, arguing can become so frequent and intense that it seems like the there is no hope for a relationship. Dr. John Gottman, a recognized expert in the field of couples therapy and psychology describes four prominent negative interactions between couples that are detrimental to marriages. He called them the “The Four Horses of Apocalypse” and are described as follows:
- Criticism is attacking the character of your partner instead of identifying negative behaviors. Examples: “You’re so selfish!” “you’re an idiot!”
- Contempt or disrespect usually follows criticism. Examples: name calling, rolling of eyes, sarcasm, and hostile humor.
- Defensiveness is the reaction to feeling attacked by your partner. Unfortunately acting in a defensive matter will not help you solve any problems.
- Stonewalling or tuning out your partner will usually follow the previous interactions, and leads to having your partner feeling ignored and angrier.
These four common interactions can lead a couple to think and even seek a divorce. Learning effective communication can help a couple communicate their needs and desires in a safer interaction. Poor communication is a common issue among couples who come to therapy. If you struggle communicating with your partner or experience criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling in your arguments maybe it’s time to seek professional help. If you need to talk to someone about problems in your relationship consider contacting a professional.