4 Factors that will Kill a Relationship Dead

Last updated on February 12th, 2015 at 09:07 am

Psychologist and Professor Dr John Gottman has been analysing couple interactions for over 40 years in their Seattle “Love Lab“, marriage clinic.

In 1994, Dr John Gottman made this startling announcement: Through scientific observation and mathematical analysis they could predict with over 90% accuracy whether a marriage would succeed or fail.

In amongst those studies he identifed four factors that kept appearing time and again in a poisonous pattern of interaction. He called these the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The Four Horsemen left unchecked are behaviours that can send couples into a downward spiral ending in a divorce.

The Four Horsemen are:

1. Criticism.
Criticism appears as a complaint or episode of blaming that’s coupled with a global attack on your partner’s personality or character. Often it begins with “You always” or “You never”. “You never help me around the house, you are so lazy.”

2. Defensiveness.
These are the counterattacks we use to defend ourselves, imply innocence or avoid taking responsbility for the problem. Defensiveness often takes the form of cross-complaining or whinging. “You never tell me what to do – how am I supposed to help out and when I do all you ever do is tell me it’s wrong.”

3. Contempt.
Ouch! this is criticism with real bite – hostility or disgust. That small sneer in the corner of a person’s mouth that looks more like a snarl that a smile, the rolling of the eyes. Contemptors often use sarcasm, mockery, name-calling or belligerence. Toxic stuff.

4. Stonewalling.
Here the listeners withdraw from the conversation, offering no physical or verbal cues that they are hearing you. This is like talking to the proverbial “stone wall”. People hide behind a newspaper, the TV or just walk out of the room or house mid conversation.

These patterns of blame, attack, anger and hurt are harmful to the relationship and your sense of safety and self in a relationship and to your family who witness these interactions.

Tools can be taught in therapy (Yes I have handouts on this and have training from those trained in the Gottman Method!) to learn new methods of communication and turn the vicious cycle into a healthy relationship learning curve.

Best Wishes, Philipa Marriage Works!

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