The Four Horsemen

One of the most important contributions from Dr. John Gottman’s research is his concept of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These are the communication patterns that destroy relationships. The Four Horsemen include: criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling.

Criticism is the most common of the Four Horsemen. This is when a person talks negatively about their partner.  Criticism can be obvious or as subtle as tone of voice. Any critical statement can be made into a non-critical statement.

When someone perceives an attack, they typically respond defensively. Although it’s natural for someone to defend him or herself when attacked, defensiveness makes it more likely that a couple will escalate.

Contempt is a severe form of criticism using superiority. It’s the number one predictor of divorce. Contempt includes: insults, belittling, name calling, mockery and sarcasm.

Stonewalling is the final of the Four Horsemen. It is seen when a person withdraws from the relationship. When someone’s heartbeat is over 100 beats per minute, stonewalling typically happens within ten seconds. Eighty five percent of stonewallers are men.

In order for couples to be successful, it is essential to minimize the Four Horsemen.