“Communication” is one of the top reasons why couples seek a therapist. Dr. John Gottman, a renowned psychologist known for his research on marital stability and predicting divorce, discovered four common communication errors among married couples who eventually divorced. He aptly named them, “the four horsemen of the apocalypse”. So, who are these infamous horsemen he refers to? Let’s take a look:
- Criticism: verbally attacking your partner’s personality or character
- Contempt: attacking your partner’s sense of self using sarcasm, name-calling, insults, eye rolling, etc
- Defense: becoming the victim and putting the blame on your partner
- Stonewalling: withdrawing from the relationship to avoid confrontation
These horsemen don’t always show up at the same time in a relationship. Often, they make their way slowly one at a time as time goes on. The occasional presence of one or two of the horsemen is not what indicates divorce, rather, the presence of all may be an indication that the marriage is heading down the wrong path. Does it mean you will get divorced? No, but it means its time to make some changes and send these four horsemen galloping the other way. And remember, according to Gottman, the four horsemen are just one of the signs that predict divorce, not the only sign.
I have broken down each of these common mistakes in detail and provided suggestions in the following articles: criticism, defense, contempt, stonewalling.