THE FOUR HORSEMEN IN A MARRIAGE

Did you know the eye rolling can be a predictor of divorce?

Yes, it’s true! Eye rolling and other demeaning facial expressions between spouses can be an indicator of a bigger problem in the relationship. 

An example of contempt, this is one of the four toxic behaviors that when identified in a marriage, can be a predictor of divorce.

These fatal behaviors- contempt, criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling, are commonly called the Four Horsemen.

The Four Horsemen is a metaphor used by Dr. John Gottman referring to the Four Horsemen in the book of Revelation. Gottman calls these behaviors the Four Horseman because they are so toxic that, if left unchanged, they signify the end of a relationship.

When present, these negative ways of communicating eat away at the very core of an intimate relationship until it is completely destroyed.

Let’s dig into each of these four behaviors so that you can understand how to identify them in your own relationships.

Horseman #1- CONTEMPT.

Contempt is the most destructive of the Four Horsemen behaviors and is the #1 predictor of divorce.

Contemptuous behaviors convey disgust in another or superiority over the other spouse, ultimately attacking their sense of self.  Examples of such actions are mocking, sarcasm, condescension, hostile humor, name calling, mimicking, eye rolling and sneering.

Behind feelings of contempt are often long-time negative thoughts about the other spouse. Contempt leads to more harmful conflict and destroys the psychological, emotional and physical health of both partners.

STOP! 

Instead of showing contempt, practice expressing your feelings using “I” statements. Work towards behaviors and actions that show fondness and admiration towards your spouse.  Express gratitude often.

Horseman #2- CRITICISM

Criticism can be a natural response as humans in an attempt to give reason to our own  disappointments and aggravations by making others the cause.

For example, a spouse may be annoyed and say, “You were supposed to pick up your clothes and they are still on the floor. You never do what I ask. You are so lazy.”

A criticism is an attack on the spouse’s character. It blames the person as a whole, often using words like “never” or “always” and contains “you” statements. Criticisms cause the partner to feel hurt, rejected and inferior.

STOP! 

Use critiques or complaints instead of criticisms to express your concerns.  Open the conversation with a gentle start-up.  

A critique or complaint is different from a criticism in that these are specific to a behavior or action that is undesirable and expresses a need in the form of “I” statements.

For example, “I know you have been busy lately, honey. It would help me if you could pick up your clothes so that I can start the laundry.”

Do you recognize your spouse’s behaviors in these examples? Or possibly your own behaviors? Chances are if one spouse is engaging in one of the Four Horseman behaviors, the other may be inadvertently doing the same. Take a personal inventory so that you can increase your awareness of how you respond in your relationship.

Check out our blog next week to learn about the remaining toxic Four Horseman behaviors and what you can do to STOP them!

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