Couples who are struggling in their relationship almost always want to know if their relationship is going to last. All couples experience ups and downs, but it’s how we handle the difficult conversations that can actually predict whether or not the relationship will end. According to research, there are four communication pitfalls that predict the future of a relationship; the 4 Horsemen. The more present the 4 Horsemen are in your relationship, the more likely you are to part ways. So, what are they?
Horseman #1: Criticism:
“You never offer to help me with the chores. You are so selfish and only do what is convenient for you!”
Criticism is an attack on a person as a whole, rather than on a specific issue. Talking to your partner this way often leaves them feeling hurt, rejected and misunderstood. Long-term effects can lead to an intensifying pattern of criticism coming from both partners.
Horseman #2: Contempt
“YOU had a bad day? How? You were home all day playing with the kids, I was at work for 10 hours!”
This is intentional disrespect of another by treating them with sarcasm, mocking, and/or name-calling that can make a person feel insignificant and loathed. According to the research of John Gottman, contempt is the single greatest predictor of divorce.
Horseman #3: Defensiveness
He: “Did you deposit your paycheck yet?”
She: “No, I haven’t had a chance, I’ve been slammed. You knew about my meeting at work. You could have offered to do it this morning!”
Defensiveness happens when we feel unjustly accused. When feeling attacked, we can begin to make excuses rather than take responsibility. In the example above, she also blamed her partner to thwart off her responsibility in the issue.
Horseman #4: Stonewalling
This happens when a person shuts down and withdraws from the conversation. It can be overwhelming dealing with the other horsemen and lead us to throw our walls up to deal with (or not deal with) the issues at hand. We use avoidance and turning away to disengage from conflict.
Try to pay attention to your conversations with your loved ones to see if you notice any of these horsemen rearing their ugly heads. If you notice when it occurs, you can start to change your behavior. Remember, you must replace this communication with healthier behavior. If you would like support in creating this change, take a look at www.ambertuckercounseling.com/couples-therapy for more information about couples counseling.