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  • SAVING YOUR RELATIONSHIP: ANTIDOTES TO THE FOUR HORSEMAN

     

    If you check out the graphic at the bottom of this blog (courtesy of The Gottman Institute), you will see that there is an antidote to each horseman.  Let’s go through them and see what we can do to stop the apocalypse of your relationship.

     

    1. Instead of Criticism, try a Gentle Start Up – When we feel criticized, we’re not likely to respond favorably.  When our ears hear blame, we’re likely to fight back or retreat (i.e., fight or flight).  There are ways of communicating which can help get our points across and save the other person from feeling blamed (see blog “Communication: Quick and Dirty Tips”).  For example, we want to try to avoid beginning sentences with the word you and actually keep it out of the sentence altogether if we can help it.  We want to express our needs using “I feel” statements (i.e., “I feel sad and frustrated when I wasn’t introduced to your work friends”), and we want to focus on solutions instead of just the problems.

    2. Instead of Contempt, try Building a Culture of Appreciation – We focus on the positive rather than the negative.  To facilitate communication, we can try a phrase like this: “I appreciate you making dinner last night, and I’d like if you could do that more often because it helped me to feel cared for and thought of”.  To help us focus on the positive, try to avoid using but since that word has a tendency to discount what was said in the first half of the sentence (i.e., I appreciate you making dinner last night, but you need to do it more”).

    3. Instead of Defensiveness, try Taking Responsibility – Hear out your partner.  Receive it instead of trying to come up with how you’re going to respond.  Try summarizing what they said and repeating it back to them – i.e., “I heard you say that you think I don’t do enough around the house and that it frustrates you, and you’d like me to do more.  Did I get that right?”  This can help your partner to feel heard and validated, and it invites conversation rather than escalating the situation.

    4. Instead of Stonewalling, try Physiological Self-Soothing – There is nothing wrong with taking a timeout when you and your partner feel frustrated.  In fact, taking a 10-minute break can be very beneficial to allowing heart rates to decrease and for both of you to slip back into the logical parts of your brains before having a conversation.  Having an agreed upon timeout duration and commitment to return can be helpful to resolving conflict.  During this time, try something that will help you to self-regulate, such as reading, listening to music, or meditating.

     

    There ya have it – the antidotes to the four horseman.  If you can commit to trying out these skills, you’ll be able to diffuse the bombs instead of contributing to longterm conflict.  It starts with you and your partner having a conversation about what the horsemen are along with the antidotes and if you can commit to trying these out.  Going into this, it’s important to have open minds and gentle curiosity about the experience.  As always, the aid of a couples counselor can help with mediation and accountability.  If you’d like to explore the possibility of couples counseling, use the contact button to get in touch with me so that we can set up a free phone consultation.  I’d be happy to answer all of your questions and make sure I’m a good fit for you.  As always, have a lovely day, and stay mindful!

    1. Anonymous

      Anonymous

      August 11, 2023 at 12:30 pm -
      Reply

      I really liked your blog.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

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