Tuesday, June 28, 2011

4 Deadly Horseman in relationships

Dr. John Gottman is a researcher on couples therapy. He is well known and respected for his work at pinpointing factors that contribute to long-term relationships as well as behaviors that facilitate the demise of relationships. One of his metaphors that he identified was the 4 deadly horsemen in relationships; those behaviors that that bring about an end of a relationship (playing on the theme of the 4 deadly horseman of the Apocalypse, the end of the world.)

Criticism is focusing or otherwise only seeing the negative components of a partner. We all understand the basic negative impact of negative criticism. The non-verbal forms of negative criticism are sometimes as equally difficult to address. Ever get that “look” from your partner? Assertive communication is the path out of criticism. The difference appears small, but the implication is significant.

Defensiveness focuses everything on your partner’s mistakes. The defensiveness creates a barrier to admitting your own part of the conflict or struggle. This approach reflects the saying, “The best defense is a strong offense.” By avoiding your role in conflict, you project onto the partner all of the problems. Owning your behaviors, and taking responsibility for your part of the conversation is one helpful strategy.

Stonewalling refers to the avoidance of the partner, or passive-aggressive behaviors. In Minnesota, we call this “Minnesota Nice” where your words don’t match your attitudes/behaviors. Assertiveness is again a strategy to help you here. So too integrity is helpful, “saying what you mean and meaning what you say.” Uncovering or otherwise revealing your hidden/secret thoughts and feelings is necessary.

Contempt is the judgment that occurs in a relationship. Much of Gottman’s research has focused on the subtleties of how contempt shows up. It usually serves to demean the individual. Finding healthy ways to address the underlying issues is important. Taking responsibility for your thoughts/feelings, as well as developing assertive ways to communicate them is necessary. Being mindful of your judgment is necessary.

If you notice any of the behaviors in your relationship, seek help. Often one of these sets of behaviors is linked with others leading to a flood of issues to be addressed. As the saying goes, the 4 deadly horsemen don’t travel alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment