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Taming the Flames: Understanding The Four Horsemen

Updated: Jul 2

Let's face it, arguments happen in even the best relationships. Sometimes, it can feel like a simple conversation escalates into a full-blown fight. But what if there were ways to identify unhealthy communication patterns and steer clear of those fiery arguments?

Enter Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – behaviours identified by doctors, John and Julie Gottman that can predict divorce if left unchecked. While the term "apocalypse" might sound dramatic, understanding these communication killers can be a powerful tool for building stronger, more fulfilling relationships.

 Relationship communication
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The Four Horsemen:
  1. This goes beyond constructive feedback. It's attacking someone's character rather than focusing on specific behaviours. Phrases like "You're always so messy!" are prime examples.

  2. This one is particularly destructive. It involves putting down your partner, using sarcasm, or making them feel belittled. Think sneering remarks or eye-rolling.

  3. When your partner expresses a concern, do you immediately jump on the defensive? Justifying your actions or blaming your partner shuts down communication.

  4. This is the silent treatment on steroids. Withdrawing from conversation, refusing to engage, or giving the cold shoulder are all signs of stonewalling.

Why are these behaviours so harmful?

The Four Horsemen create negativity and shut down communication. Instead of resolving issues, they build resentment and distance.

But there's hope!

By recognising these behaviours and making a conscious effort to communicate more effectively, you and your partner can build a stronger relationship.

Tips for Healthy Communication:
  • Instead of accusatory "you" statements, use "I" statements to express your feelings (e.g., "I feel hurt when you..." instead of "You always make me feel bad").

  • Pay attention to your partner, acknowledge their feelings, and avoid interrupting.

  • Try to see things from your partner's perspective.

  • Own your mistakes and be willing to apologise.

  • Set aside dedicated time to talk openly and honestly about your relationship.

Seeking Help:

If you're struggling to communicate effectively with your partner, consider seeking professional help from a couples therapist. A therapist can provide you with tools and strategies to address communication challenges and build a healthier, happier relationship.

Remember: Strong relationships don't happen by accident. By being aware of Gottman’s Four Horsemen and actively working on healthy communication skills, you and your partner can build a lasting connection that thrives in the face of any flames.

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