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    For today’s blog, I want to bring attention to what have been called the Four Horseman in psychological research, which are said to be predictors of the end of a relationship (they’re called this in reference to a Biblical concept, which are the four signs of the apocalypse).  Let’s get into what they are and what they mean.  Are you experiencing any of these in your relationship?  Read on to find out.


    1. Criticism – This is just what it sounds like, being overly critical of your partner.  This is not offering healthy feedback but instead attacking their character.  Instead of, “Hey I felt sad when I wasn’t introduced at your work party”, it might be, “You don’t care about me and always want to exclude me because you’re a jerk”.  This can lead to the next horseman, Contempt.

    2. Contempt – Google search tells us that contempt is “the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn”.  This is aggressive in nature in that a partner does not take the other’s desires, wants, or feelings into account.  A partner who feels contemptuous thinks they are above the other and will base insults in the partner being worthless and pathetic.  This takes the form of insulting, calling the other names, and invalidating the other – i.e., “I make all the money in this house, and all you do is spend it and hang out with your friends.  It’s pathetic that you don’t do anything all day”.   Research by The Gottman Institute indicates that contempt is the greatest predictor of divorce.

    3. Defensiveness – The natural response to criticism can be defensiveness since we perceive that the other person is attacking us – i.e., “You think I don’t do anything all day?  All you need to worry about is going to work, yet I clean the whole house and make all the meals, I do so much more than you.  You’re the one who needs to do more”.  Although it’s natural to want to defend ourselves, it doesn’t help the communication and ends up escalating the argument.  Rather, finding ways to empathize with your partner while expressing yourself in a healthy way can help to defuse and resolve the situation.

    4. Stonewalling – Simply put, this is shutting down.  You or your partner or both may withdraw completely from the situation, holing yourselves up in different parts of the home and refusing to have much communication at all.  This certainly doesn’t help the situation.  A question I like to ask couples – do you argue?  If this answer is yes, I usually respond with, “Great!”  Because as long as you’re arguing, you’re communicating, and I can work with that.  It’s a lot more difficult when you’re stonewalling and having little to no communication with each other.


    So now that you know what the four hourseman are, what can be done?  The first step to resolving any issue is recognizing the problem, so we’ve already done the hard part.  Next, we need to find the antidotes.  Stay tuned and be sure to check out my next blog “Saving Your Relationship: Antidotes to the Four Horseman” for more on that.  That’s all for now, have a wonderfully mindful day!

    1. Anonymous


      August 11, 2023 at 7:08 pm -

      Hey, thanks for the post. Much obliged.

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