Unless you have been in marriage counseling, therapy, or take an interpersonal communication class that brings this up, you might not know what the four horsemen even is. I’ll explain why I know it. It was founded by John Gottman who is a very well-known marriage psychologist. Anyway, I know about the four horsemen because it has been taught throughout all three of the things I mentioned. I first learned about it in marriage counseling, then in my interpersonal communication class; after that, I was relearning about them in my private therapy sessions. Now this is from my interpersonal communications class, which describes each of the four horsemen.
“FOUR BAD OMENS THAT FORECAST TROUBLE FOR RELATIONSHIPS “THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE”
Based on research done by Dr. John Gottman at the University of Washington
CRITICISM: Complaining is actually a healthy marital activity. It makes the relationship stronger in the long run than when it’s suppressed. The problem is that we usually don’t complain about specific actions; we criticize the person instead. There may not seem to be much of a difference between complaining and criticizing, but criticism involves attacking someone’s personality rather than his/her behavior. Complaints use “I” language and criticism usually uses “You” language. “I wish we went out more often” is a complaint. “You never take me anywhere” is a criticism.
Receiving criticism feels far worse than receiving a complaint.
CONTEMPT: Contempt is separated from criticism by the intention behind it. When you are contemptuous you intend to insult and psychologically abuse your partner. Name-calling, hostile humor like biting sarcasm, and mockery are common forms of contempt.
DEFENSIVENESS: Contempt usually leads to defensiveness—it is the counterpart to contempt. You usually feel victimized and just want to get back at the person rather than deal with the problem. If you are bombarded with insults it is natural to want to defend yourself and the best defense is a good offense. Defensiveness is very destructive because it becomes habit forming and leads to the escalatory spiral we discussed in class.
STONEWALLING: You get exhausted from the above three and simply stop responding, even defensively. Dr. Gottman’s research indicated about 85% of stonewallers are men. Overwhelmed by emotions, stonewallers tend to withdraw. They won’t make eye contact and avoid doing anything that would indicate they are listening. They often claim they’re trying not to make things worse, but stonewalling itself is a powerful act conveying disapproval and smugness, creating distance, and is a power play to control the situation. Once the conflict has deteriorated to this point, it is going to require a lot of hard work from both parties to resolve it.
Keep in mind that most of us engage in the above behaviors from time to time during conflict, but the danger is letting this kind of interaction become habit forming. According to Gottman’s research, if he can identify 3 or 4 of
these tendencies in your communication with others, he can predict with a high percentage of accuracy whether or not your relationship is going to last. Start becoming aware of them in your own communication style.”
That’s the gist of it, and I’m just thinking about things and analyzing things, especially personal relationships. I know I can be critical, and I own up to that. I know I’m guilty of it, and it’s one of the biggest things I’ve worked on in therapy and why I took an interpersonal communication class. I want to talk to the people around me without falling into these all the time. I want to have a successful relationship with someone. I also want the other person to understand these as well too. Because criticism will lead to contempt, then defensiveness, stonewalling, it becomes a never-ending cycle and will lead to a marriage failure. I wasn’t the only one in the relationship guilty of doing these because it wasn’t just me. Even if a person doesn’t display criticism openly, ask your self are they being judgemental towards you? Do they turn their back on you the moment you bring up a certain subject? Judgment is ultimately critical because if you’re looking at something and you judge it, you’re analyzing and being critical of that said person, place, or thing. In this class, I learned that communication verbally is only “7 percent verbal, 38 percent vocal, and 55 percent visual” (Interpersonal Communications 210 PowerPoint). So if someone turns away and gives the cold shoulder to their partner, they send a message that they don’t want to hear what their partner has to say. Especially if they don’t even hear what their partner is trying to tell or ask them. That’s being judgemental and, in turn, is critical.
I bring this up because people say they’re communicating by talking but talking is not the only form of communication. That’s why when people tell a person their actions don’t reflect their words, that’s what they’re referring to. There’s so much more to communication than just words alone, and some people do need to be reminded of that.
I said I’ve been writing outside of here, and these are the type of things I’ve been analyzing. I’m trying to reflect on myself as a person but also being mindful of my communication. I want to have successful relationships, as I said, and to do that, I have to educate myself on all aspects of relationships. Not just the pretty parts but the hard parts to why relationships fail and understand why they fail. If I can understand that, I can better reflect on myself and better myself for future relationships.