In the previous article, we saw that Dr. John Gottman uses the term ‘Four Horseman of the Apocalypse’ as a metaphor for communication styles that are particularly detrimental to any relationship. If you desire a satisfying and happy relationship you need to put a stop to the ‘Four Horsemen’ running rampant in your relationship. Dr. Gottman noted that not all negative behaviors in relationships have the same affect. These four listed below are the most destructive. We previously reviewed two of the four horsemen ‘criticism’ and ‘defensiveness’. Usually you will find when one of the horsemen appears the others quickly follow.
THE THIRD HORSEMAN: CONTEMPT
Contempt is noted to be the most dangerous of the ‘four horsemen’. Contempt can be any form of a put down. Some examples are eye rolling, name calling, swearing, belittling, and sarcasm. Contempt is often fueled by long-standing negative thoughts about your spouse.
ANTIDOTE FOR CONTEMPT: Describe your own feelings and needs, don’t describe your partner.
Oftentimes when someone is contemptuous they put themselves on a higher plane than the other person and look down at them. They have let issues simmer for a long time. Here is an example of contempt; “Look at the difference in how we dress, I am always neat and you are so messy.” Instead describe your own feelings and needs. “I love it when you wear that red dress it looks beautiful on you!” “I feel really special when you dress so nice.”
Have mercy on us, LORD, have mercy,
for we have had our fill of contempt.
We have had more than our fill of the scoffing
of the proud and the contempt of the arrogant.
Be gentle and respectful when speaking to your spouse. Let your spouse know what you are feeling and what you need.
THE FOURTH HORSEMAN: STONEWALLING
Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the conversation by shutting down or disengaging from the situation. When interviewed, men who typically stonewalled said they were feeling emotionally flooded and thought if they shut down the other person might just go away. Women can also stonewall by acting busy or acting unresponsive. This kind of behavior is very damaging in relationships. It can lead to the other person becoming infuriated or feeling abandoned in the relationship.
ANTIDOTE FOR STONEWALLING: Do psychological self-soothing
Take time to discover ways you can self-soothe when facing problems in your relationship.
5 Tips for self-soothing:
- Take a deep breath
- Use positive self-talk; “I am going to be okay.” “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
- Take a short break from the conversation
- Take a walk
“Know this, my beloved brothers:
let every person be quick to hear,
slow to speak, slow to anger”
Learn to manage your emotions and calm down.
“He who manages his spirit can take over a city.”
Now that you are aware of the “Four Horsemen” and how they negatively affect your relationship make a plan to use each of the antidotes. One couple shared that they use the code word, ‘Clip clop,’ with each other when they see the horsemen appearing. This small phrase warns the other one to make a detour or make a quick repair. Remember you have the fruit of the Holy Spirit who lives in you, which is ‘love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’. (Galatians 5:22) Pray together and ask God to manifest these fruits in your life.