Halting the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in Your Relationship- Part One
Do you remember the last time you got in an argument with your spouse? Did you roll your eyes or sit in stone cold silence? Did you find yourself giving a witty criticism? Maybe the response you received was one of a strong defense. If this sounds familiar to you, would it surprise you to learn these are destructive elements in a relationship? They are serious warning signs telling you it is time to make changes. Continue reading to learn the repairs for these negative communication styles and become a master instead of a disaster in your relationship.
The ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ is a reference made in Revelation the last book of the Bible. The term has come to infer that great destruction is coming, and the end is near. Dr. John Gottman uses this as a metaphor for communication styles that are particularly detrimental to any relationship. The following are Gottman’s ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ along with his antidotes for each negative communication style:
THE FIRST HORSEMAN: CRITICISM
Criticism is a way for you to attack the character and personality of your spouse. Gottman research shows 96% of the time you give a harsh start-up when filing a complaint your discussion will end on a negative note. You would only have a 4% chance to have effective communication.
ANTIDOTE FOR CRITICISM: Use a gentle start- up
Soften your start-ups by using ‘I’ instead of ‘you’ statements. Also, avoid using words like ‘always’ and ‘never’. Try to file a complaint without blaming your spouse. In many cases I have found complaints spouses make are valid, the problem lies in how the complaint has been filed. The following is an example of a harsh start-up; “You never spend time with me,” “You are always out with your golf buddies.” A more productive way to address this problem using a gentle start-up would be; “I am feeling lonely and would love it if we went out on a special date”. When you use a gentle start-up you make a request that is respectful and without blame.
“A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
– Proverbs 15:1
Solomon warns us that harsh words will stir up anger. Using soft or kind words will help you keep peace in your home.
THE SECOND HORSEMAN: DEFENSIVENESS
It is natural when you are in the middle of a conflict to want to defend yourself. Defensiveness is saying ‘The problem isn’t me, it’s you’. Here is an example; “You always leave dirty dishes in the sink” and a defensive response would be, “…and you leave a mess in the bathroom”. This is a very frustrating dance for both parties leaving the initiator of the conversation feeling their complaint is not valid.
ANTIDOTE FOR DEFENSIVENESS: Take responsibility
The key is in taking some ownership of the problem. Once you calm down you may consider the complaint filed having actual value. If you can own even 10 or 20 percent of the problem this would be progress. Consider too, making an apology or a quick repair this can be such a breath of fresh air.
“Confess your sins to each other
and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
There is power in taking responsibility for wrong doing and speaking the truth. After an offense is made and confessed, pray for each other.
Next week we will continue with the two remaining horsemen, “contempt” and “stonewalling.” Until then, take time to see if you find either of these damaging communication styles happening in your relationship. If they exist imagine yourself applying one of the antidotes in your next difficult situation. It is important to remember you are never alone. The Holy Spirit wants to enable you to have peace and self-control in all of your relationships. Become a master in your relationship rather than a disaster!