Are conflicts “apocalypsing” your bond? Killing love and affection?
Don’t tell us that every time a disagreement arises, everything is smooth sailing or you never have disagreements. We won’t be able to believe you.
Disagreements are what makes us human. Now they can be damaging or lead you to reconciliation and growth.
But statistically speaking, there’s a way to tell if you’re relationship is heading towards an apocalypse of love (with 80% accuracy, not 100).
John Gottman found the 4 destructive behaviors and identified them as the “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
There is a difference in criticizing what someone does and what someone is. “You’re a slob,” is personal criticism. “I get annoyed when I pick up your wet towel on the floor,” is a complaint.
When full-throttle criticism is partnered with disrespect we use various ways to express that: rolling eyes, making mean “jokes,” sneering, aggressive verbal assaults, etc. How can we make up with someone that makes us feel worthless?
We don’t like it when our mistakes are pointed out, that’s fair. Complaints have a great need behind them. And we might miss out on how we can satisfy our partner’s needs when we’re focused on excuses, denying, responsibility, and rebuttals.
A state of overwhelm, but also of being emotionally checked out. Pretending our partner isn’t speaking to us, is like saying that we’re not in the relationship when things aren’t going our way.
This isn’t to say we never do this. We may have just done one of these this morning. This is simply to point out which constant behaviors are like a cancer to your romance and affections.
Solution for Criticism: If we tend to be more critical, it’s best to hold back and focus on what’s going right. If we’re good at giving “constructive feedback,” we may miss some of the good stuff that is happening, so it’s good to pay attention to what we may have overlooked. Complain, but don’t get personal.
Solution for Contempt: Now, contempt can be very diverse. It’s like m&m’s. There’s a variety of colors. Rolling eyes, correcting our partner’s grammer, etc., etc. Depending on our personality, we each express contempt in our own style. Why limit advice to “don’t roll your eyes” when you don’t do that? So the best thing to do is to catch yourself. You know when you’re doing it—and your partner may not even know you’re doing it. You just have to catch yourself. You don’t have to feel shame and give a full confession of what you just did. Just practice being polite. As if you were talking to an acquaintance.
Solution for Defensiveness and Stonewalling: When we’re checked out giving the cold shoulder or not in the mood to hear our partner’s complaint, we may need a break to process what’s going on. Don’t storm out. Make the effort to communication you’re taking a break and you will talk about it after you’ve taken you’re break. During your break, write down what you need so you can listen better to your partner and come back and tell them (“I felt attacked when you brought up ____, I’d be open to hear you if you don’t say what a bad person I am. I know you need something from me, and I want to hear you out….”). Make a choice to listen. Behind your partner’s request is a need, ask them what that is. You’ll feel less attacked, and you’ll realize you didn’t need to take it personal.
In sum, let the your partner know what you need, instead of what you expect, and how you will do things differently in the future, by showing it now in your current conversation.
November 17, 2017
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