Antidotes for the Four Horseman

4 horseman

I have written before about the “four horseman” in respect to the Gottman Method of Marriage Therapy.  If you would like to read more about this concept please click on the link below. Briefly the four horseman are the 4 attitudes that quickly bring about trouble in a marriage. I just read a great article on the “antidotes to the four horseman” and I thought I would share them for this blog:

Antidote to criticism

A complaint focuses on a specific behavior, but criticism attacks a person’s very character. The antidote for criticism is to complain without blame by using gentle start up.  Avoid saying “you,” which can indicate blame, and instead talk about your feelings using “I” statements and express what you need in a positive way. Think of these two things to formulate your gentle start-up: What am I feeling? Or What am I needing?

Antidote to contempt

Contempt shows up in statements that come from a feeling of moral superiority. Some examples of contempt include sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. Contempt is destructive and defeating. It is the greatest predictor of divorce, and it must be avoided at all costs. The antidote to contempt is to build a culture of appreciation and respect in your relationship, and there are a few ways to do that. Regularly express appreciation, gratitude, affection, and respect for your partner (even in the tiniest of things), you’ll create a positive perspective in your relationship that acts as a buffer for negative feelings. The more positive you feel, the less likely that you’ll feel or express contempt!

Antidote to defensiveness

Defensiveness is defined as self-protection in the form of indignation or innocent victimhood in attempt to ward off a perceived attack. Many people become defensive when they are being criticized, but the problem is that being defensive never helps to solve the problem at hand. Defensiveness many times is a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying that the problem isn’t me, it’s you. The antidote is to accept responsibility your part, even if only a small part of the conflict.

Antidote to stonewalling

Stonewalling is when someone completely withdraws from a conflict discussion and no longer responds. It usually happens when you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed, so your reaction is to shut down, stop talking, and disengage. When couples stonewall, they’re under a lot of emotional pressure, which increases heart rates and releases stress hormones into the bloodstream. The antidote for this is to take a short break. If you don’t take a break, you’ll find yourself either stonewalling and bottling up your emotions, or you’ll end up exploding at your partner – neither will get you anywhere good. So, when you take a break, it should last at least twenty minutes because it will take that long before your body physiologically calms down.  Spend your time doing something soothing and distracting, like listening to music, reading, or exercising. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as it helps you to calm down.

The Center would love to help you put these “antidotes” into practice. Please give us a call at 602-325-1233.

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