You don’t need a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy to know that marriage is hard. My guess is that if you’re married, have every been married, or in a relationship; you’ve already figured this out. Relationships can be difficult and conflict is inevitable in any relationship. Despite the not so encouraging statistics on marriage and divorce; there are ways that you can stay married and happily married at that!
Nonsense you say… well take it from your local marriage and family therapist– it’s true!
Dr. John Gottman and his team have researched couples for decades and have provided all this wonderful information for us through The Gottman Institute. Dr. Gottman identified four indicators of relationship failure that he calls “The Four Horsemen”. He can predict with 90% accuracy if a relationship will fail based on these indicators. Luckily for us, he has also provided the antidotes for each of these indicators. By using these antidotes in our relationship, we can fight off the Four Horsemen and live happily ever after (for the most part).
The Four Horsemen and Their Antidotes
- Criticism- Criticism is when we attack the character of a person, usually based on a complaint (specific behavior) that we tend to generalize.
“You never help with housework. You are so lazy”
The antidote for criticism is to complain without blaming or personal attacks. By using I statements, you can identify your feelings and needs and express them to your partner.
“I’m feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated. I need more help with keeping up the house”
- Defensiveness-Defensiveness is defined as self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victimhood in attempt to ward off a perceived attack. Most people become defensive when they are being criticized or blamed. However, defensiveness never solves the problem or deescalates the conflict. Defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner; it’s not me, it’s you.
“It’s not my fault we never have any money. You always spend too much!”
The antidote for defensiveness is to take responsibility, even for just your part of the problem.
“Part of this is my fault. I need to do a better job of communicating expenses”
- Contempt-Contempt in a relationship is the greatest predictor of divorce. You MUST get rid of contempt if you want to save your marriage. Contempt is defined as statements that come from a relative position of superiority. This can include: name-calling, eye-rolling, hostile humor, and sarcasm.
“You’re an idiot” (insert eye-roll)
The antidote for contempt is to build a culture of appreciation and respect in the relationship.
“I appreciate everything you do for our family”
- Stonewalling-Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction. This is when partners completely disengage and disconnect from the conflict and ultimately the relationship. The antidote for stonewalling is to practice physiological self-soothing. Typically, during conflicts, partners may explode, or implode (stonewall) at their partner. To deescalate the conflict and prevent stonewalling, one must learn to stop the conflict discussion and self soothe. By using self-soothing strategies such as deep breathing, meditation, or listening to music; your brain and your body will decrease their state of arousal, allowing you to think and communicate clearly. Research shows that taking a twenty-minute break during a conflict discussion can prevent the conflict from escalating and ultimately damaging the relationship.
Save My Marriage
Because marriage is hard, it can be helpful to seek out a professional. If you and your partner are struggling to fight against the Four Horsemen and want to save your marriage then marriage counseling at Building Blocks Family Counseling may be the solution you’ve been looking for.
Click here to learn more about marriage counseling at Building Blocks Family Counseling.
Call or email Ashley to schedule your first appointment.
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Check out the video below for more information on the Four Horsemen.
Click here to learn more about The Gottman Institute