Most people think that good relationships are a matter of luck. You meet, fall in love, and hopefully your personalities mesh well enough that you can stay together forever. However, Dr. John Gottman, a leading psychologist in the field of love and relationships, has identified four major warning signs of a relationship in trouble. The signs, which he dubbed “The Four Horsemen,” helps him predict in his lab with 94% accuracy whether a given couple will divorce. Curious about where your relationship stands? Read on.
Ever catch yourself calling your partner names or pointing out their flaws under the guise of advice? Turns out, constructive criticism isn’t constructive at all. It makes your partner feel rejected and unwanted. The antidote? If there’s a conflict, address the specific issue and not the person’s defects. So next time your partner forgets to do the dishes or take out the trash, remind them gently instead of accusing them of being lazy or careless.
Defensiveness is a natural human response to a complaint. After all, nobody likes to feel like they made a mistake, so we usually try to explain how the situation really wasn’t our fault. Unfortunately, when you do this in a relationship, your partner walks away feeling like you don’t care about their concerns or their feelings. Defensiveness will also make your partner angry and escalate the conflict. A better approach is to apologize, admit your role in whatever the problem is and acknowledge that you understand how your partner feels.
Stonewalling is a common response in men, but women do it too. Your partner wants to talk or share something with you, and instead of responding you completely ignore them. You might walk away, turn the TV up louder, or pretend to be deaf. It may seem like the easy way out, but it communicates to the other person loud and clear that you couldn’t be bothered. Your partner feels abandoned and rejected. Healthy couples listen to each other with consideration rather than tuning each other out.
Contempt is the worse of the four horsemen, and it’s the final death knell of a relationship. Signs of contempt include things like hurtful sarcasm, mocking and rolling your eyes at your partner. Contempt is so bad because it signals disgust with who your partner is as a human being. The opposite of contempt is respect, so if you’re really invested in your relationship, genuinely look at things from your partner’s perspective.
John Gottman’s research in the field of relationships has been revolutionary. His science-based approach to love is practical and easily applied to any couple. Avoid the four horsemen in your relationship, and you’ll be on the way to a healthier bond.
For more information on how to keep your relationship strong, feel free to contact us.