The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and How They Destroy Love

The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and How They Destroy Love

Every relationship experiences conflict in one form or another. It’s normal. However, the way you handle conflict determines the quality of your relationship. You might believe conflict should be avoided at all costs, or the opposite; prefer to ‘clear the air’ by expressing your frustration and anger. 

The four horseman of the apocalypse was developed by Dr John and Julie Gottman to help couples understand destructive behaviors in their relationship and their antidotes. Essentially how to have constructive conversations and cultivate more love. 

THE FOUR HORSEMAN OF THE APOCALYPSE

The Four Horsemen are a bible metaphor depicting end times. They symbolize conquest, war, hunger and death. 

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1. CRITICISM

The first horseman is Criticism. This is when you attack your partner’s character or insinuate they have flaws in their personality. 

This is very different to respectfully voicing a complaint with a gentle startup. 

Example of Criticism: “You’re so selfish! You never put your stuff away!”

Use a gentle startup: “I feel a bit overwhelmed. I need some extra room on the kitchen bench for this new project. It would be helpful if you could finish cleaning up.”

2. CONTEMPT

The third horseman is contempt. It’s looking down on your partner. Contemptuous behavior is the most poisonous of all the horseman. It is the result of habitually scanning the environment for your partner’s mistakes, instead of focusing on what you value about them. It shows up as sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, mocking and hostile humor.  

Contemptuous relationships develop overtime because a desire, need or want is not being met. The antidote is to describe your own feelings and needs, instead of your partners. And build a culture of appreciation. 

Example oContempt: “You’re late again. When are you going to grow up? You’re pathetic.” (look of disgust).

Use a gentle startup: “I feel hurt and unimportant when you come home this late. I would really appreciate it if you could prioritise getting home earlier. I love spending time with you.”

3. DEFENSIVENESS

The second horseman is defensiveness, which is often a response to criticism or feeling attacked. Essentially its an attempt to protect yourself by placing all the blame on your partner. You might play the part of the innocent victim, launch a counter-attack or do both. 

Unfortunately, defensiveness tends to escalate the conflict. 

To deescalate the conflict you both need to take some responsibility, no matter how small. This will help your partner to feel heard and understood. 

Example of Defensiveness: “No matter what I do, it’s never enough!”

Take responsibility: “I’m sorry. I could have given you more notice.”

4. STONEWALLING

The fourth horseman is stonewalling, which occurs when you withdraw your attention whilst staying physically present. Essentially you are conveying disinterest and disapproval by avoiding eye contact, crossing arms and giving no facial responses. Its like to talking to a stonewall. This horseman creates distance and separation.

It is a vicious cycle. The more you turn away (stonewall) the more your partner attacks. And because stonewalling causes your heart rate to elevate your system is flooded with stress hormones, making it impossible to think clearly. 

The antidote is to stop the conflict, call timeout, and do something else like going for a walk or listening to music. You can then re-engage when you are feeling calmer.

Example of Stonewalling: Staring straight ahead whilst giving no cues that you are listening. 

Take timeout: “Babe, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I’m feeling too overwhelmed to talk about this. I need to take a break so I can calm down a bit and then we can work it out.”

Download this free PDF version of the The Four Horsemen and Their Antidotes here

How you manage conflict will determine the success or failure of your relationship. The good news is the way you have managed conflict till now can be changed. The Gottman’s have created a roadmap based on years of research, not just the behaviors that destroy love, but how to cultivate a loving relationship. 

Lets Talk

If you recognise the Four Horseman in your relationship, then please call me for a Free 15 minute consultation. We can talk about what is going on for you and I can answer any questions you might have. If I am with a client I will get back to you as soon as I can.

or if you are ready to book now

Lets Talk

If you recognise the Four Horseman in your relationship, then please call me for a Free 15 minute consultation. We can talk about what is going on for you and I can answer any questions you might have. If I am with a client I will get back to you as soon as I can.

or if you are ready to book now

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Mindfulness Quiz:
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