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Four things that will ruin a relationship...

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I'm taking a couples therapy class this semester, and one of the first things we learned and have to have memorized is something called "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." This was termed by John Gottman, if anyone is interested in reading his work. He describes these four things as detrimental to a relationship, so I thought it'd be interesting to share with this forum so we can examine our relationships. They are...


1. Criticism (different from a complaint. A complaint is specific and uses "I" statements, such as "I feel upset when you don't call when you said you would". These are not identified as detrimental to a relationship. A criticism is global and implies a defect in the person's character, such as "You are so lazy." This is done by more women than men.)


2. Defensivesness


3. Contempt (Identified a the worst of the four. Occurs when someone acts superior to their partner, such as "You are such an idiot. You can never do anything right.")


4. Stonewalling (This means emotionally withdrawing from the other person. This is typically done by men, so he states that when a woman does this it pretty much means the relationship is over).



Just thought this would be interesting to share with everyone

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I think it was based on research. For the criticism, women tend to be more emotional and it can lead to criticism. Men don't enjoy the criticism and it leads them to stonewall. The stonewalling leads to more criticism from the women, so it's circular. It's a demand-withdrawl cycle. I don't know any specific reasons, but everything he talks about is based in research. He did this incredible study of married couples in a "marriage lab" that studied their interactions as well as their physiology. Things like heart rate during stressful interactions, facial expressions. It's pretty interesting.

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Interesting, thanks for sharing.


When I was first with my partner, if we had a fight, I would tend to withdraw from him rather than to argue or talk back. I thought this was better than to confront and argue. Later we broke up for a short time, and were able to work things out. He told me that when I withdrew from him, it left him feeling so hurt and rejected. So now when we disagree, we talk it out. It's been MUCH more productive, and we feel more like a team working together, than two people working against one another.

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I read John Gottman's book awhile back. I do agree with those Four Horsemen. If one shows up and isn't dealt with, it simply opens the way for the others to arrive.


Gottman also talked about how a couple's memories of their early history can indicate their chances of recovery. It makes sense that if a fighting couple can recall good memories together, they will want to work to get those good memories back. If a couple can only remember bad things (she was late, he got me regular coke, not diet!) then the relationship is pretty much over. That made sense to me, especially when I was struggling to keep my marriage alive with my abusive ex. I realized it was over when I still had good memories, but him... not only he thought the present me was rubbish, but he also said horrible things about the past we shared. I ended it the next day. He had "re-written" history so that I was always something selfish and pathetic.

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I think the main points are true and good but warn about the 'women don't stonewall unless it's too late' thing. I do this, and I am (a) a woman and (b) committed to my relationship. I agree that it may well be that more men do this than women, but it's also not really that black and white.


Am also not saying it's a good thing. I am well aware it's not, but it's still my own special dysfunctional approach.

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