The four horsemen of the apocalypse and their antidotes

The Gottmans have described criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling as the four horsemen of the apocalypse: research has indicated they are all predictors of relationships ending in divorce with contempt being of particular significance. In couple therapy we take care to notice when these things are happening and to introduce and practice antidotes for each of them. These include what the Gottmans have called soft startups as antidotes for criticism and contempt. These are generally I statements expressing feelings and positive needs in a situation rather than you statements which blame and put the other down. These are critical in increasing the likelihood of being heard when raising issues that are important for you in the relationship. The antidote to defensiveness in which one bats the issue back to ones partner in a number of ways is responding by acknowledging the point made and taking some responsibility. The antidote to stonewalling which is often accompanied by physiological flooding is being able to recognize this is happening, communicate with your partner about it, and take time to self-soothe before returning to the conversation.

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