Jun 15 / Simcha

Stopping the Four Horsemen (J. Gottman)

horsemen2In a previous posting we list what John Gottman, professor emeritus in Psychology (Univ. of WA), refers to as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — the four major negative behaviors that are highly destructive to the couple’s connection when they appear too frequently in their interactions.

Alongside the antidotes offered in that posting, we add the following ways to prevent the downward relational spiral caused by these behaviors.

Know thy partner

Get to know your partner inside and out by building “love maps.” A love map is like a road map you make of your partner’s internal psychological world. Masterful partners are always asking questions about their partner and disclosing personal details about themselves. This naturally requires investing time and energy in one’s relationship.

Respond positively to “bids

We all frequently make little bids for our partner’s attention; we say something and hope/expect our partner will respond or engage. When our partner doesn’t respond, or responds negatively, the relationship suffers a small injury. In time these injuries add up and cause what is sometimes irreparable damage.

Partners who respond to one another’s bids for attention and conversation, build relationship equity, and are more able to easily repair problems as they arise.

Show admiration

Happy, satisfied partners focus on the positive and view their partner as better than they really are. Unhappy partners focus on what is wrong or lacking, and view their partners as worse than they really are. Admiration is largely about the story we tell ourselves about our partner — a serious indicator of whether the relationship is a happy and healthy one.