Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Four Horseman of Relationships

In her book Fortytude, therapist Sarah Brokaw (daughter of Tom) addresses women in their 40s, 50s, and beyond.  She speaks on a variety of subjects pertinent to this stage of life.  What interested me was the section on "connectedness" i.e. relationships.  In it she cites relational therapist Dr. John Gottman who made famous what he coined the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in long term relationships.

They are:
Criticism - when people believe there is something "globally wrong" with their partners instead of focusing on specific behaviors
Defensiveness - making excuses, refusing to take responsibility, or responding to negative feedback with a complaint
Contempt - putting yourself above your partner, a blatant sign of disrespect
Stonewalling - when the listener withdraws leaving the partner isolated and blocked out

She goes on to say, "If he [Gottman] observed signs of these behaviors and emotions during  a couples therapy session, he found, the partnership would be unlikely to endure...  Gottman noted that, for most couples, the four horsemen inevitably show up from time to time.  It is when they take up permanent residence that a partnership is seriously jeopardized."

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