The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse
Do you ever feel you're in a battle ground in your relationship?
A bit like in the picture below...
...not knowing where to turn and what might happen.
Do you wonder which weapon you might need to use next?
...the chances are you both need to retreat to find a new way of communicating to have a healthier more loving connection.
The four horseman of the apocalypse is used by Dr. Gottman, who adapted the original picture to liken the horseman to the four most dangerous behaviours that cause relationship breakdowns.
Within the couples therapy I offer, we will explore these communication behaviours within your subjective experiences alongside some psycho-education around then history and evolution of relationships to help you empathise with your partner. This will include practical tasks to work with in therapy and at home. These tools can help gain clarity, empathy and help you both work as a team to obtain a clearer vision and joint goals.
I would recommend a minimum of 6 sessions to cover the main criteria, but often this takes longer as we discuss your relationship concerns along the way. The couples therapy I offer is solution focused and will not necessarily venture to depth regarding any emotionall trauma from your past, however, we will touch upon any important discoveries and highlight any need for individual therapy before continuing with your couples therapy together.
The type of work we will cover are: the four horseman, love language, language of apology, transactional analysis, drama triangle, conflict resolution, defensiveness, trust and empathy. I can also explore infidelity, addiction in relationships and sexual concerns if you need to.
Take a look at the following four horseman.....if you can identify yourself or your partner in any of these, and this forms an uncomfortable basis for the majority of your communications, it could be helpful to get in touch.
When you criticise your partner you are basically implying that there is something wrong with them. You have taken a problem between you and put it inside your partner’s body. Using the words: “You always” or “you never” are common ways to criticise. Your partner is most likely to feel under attack and to respond defensively. This is a dangerous pattern to get into because neither person feels heard and both may begin to feel bad about themselves in the presence of the other. The antidote to criticism is to make a direct complaint that is not an attack on your partner’s personality.
Contempt is any statement or nonverbal behavior that puts yourself on a higher ground than your partner. Mocking your partner, calling them names, rolling your eyes and sneering in disgust are all examples of contempt. Of all the horsemen, contempt is the most serious. Couples have to realize that these types of put downs will destroy the fondness and admiration between them. The antidote to contempt is to lower your tolerance for contemptuous statements and behaviors and to actively work on building a culture of appreciation in the relationship. Is it easy? No. Can it be done? Yes. In Gottman therapy there are many exercises we can use to help you learn to reduce, repair and eliminate contemptuous exchanges.
When you attempt to defend yourself from a perceived attack with a counter complaint you are being defensive. Another way to be defensive is to whine like an innocent victim. Unfortunately, defensiveness keeps partners from taking responsibility for problems and escalates negative communication. Even if your partner is criticizing you, defensiveness is not the way to go. It will only fuel a bad exchange. The antidote to defensiveness is to try to hear your partner’s complaint and to take some responsibility for the problem.
Stonewalling happens when the listener withdraws from the conversation. The stonewaller might actually physically leave or they might just stop tracking the conversation and appear to shut down. The Stonewaller may look like he doesn’t care (80% are men) but that usually isn’t the case. Typically they are overwhelmed and are trying to calm themselves. Unfortunately, this seldom works because the partner, especially if a woman, is likely to assume they don’t care enough about the problem to talk about it. It can be a vicious circle with one person demanding to talk and the other looking for escape. The antidote is to learn to identify the signs that you or your partner is starting to feel emotionally overwhelmed and to agree together to take a break. If the problem still needs to be discussed then pick it up when you are calmer.