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How To Stop Arguing/ The Four Horsemen That Kill Relationships & Marriages

Are you tired of arguing with your spouse or partner in your relationship or marriage?

You should be and do everything in your power to avoid a chronic pattern of arguing with your spouse. Why? Other than the obvious reason of desiring a healthy relationship did you know...

Chronic conflict in a marriage takes 8-10 years of your life expectancy due to stress (cortisol).

That reason alone is enough to get my attention because, "I ain't dying for nobody!"

What's interesting is exactly how conflict, arguing and disagreements erode a good relationship or marriage. According to legendary psychologist, Dr. John Gottman, the presence of the four horsemen in a relationship or marriage over time successfully causes relationship failure a whopping 90% of the time.

What are the four horsemen?

1) Criticism- is the act of noticing a problem within your life or the relationship and turning it into a commentary of your partner's character trait flaws.

2) Defensiveness- is the reaction to a perceived criticism where the partner can either play the victim, over explain, and/or counter-criticize instead of acknowledging his/her flaws or faults and making the change.

3) Stonewalling- when someone in the conversation starts to act like a stone wall. As the person experiencing the stonewalling, it might seem like their partner doesn't care about them or has totally emotionally shut down. Common behaviors can be looking away, remaining silent through most of the conversation, giving brief responses purposefully, and perhaps even checking the phone, laptop, looking away in the middle of the conversation, etc.

4) Contempt- is criticism on steroids because it involves expressing discontent by utilizing shame and mean-spirited sarcasm to put someone down. Contempt can even be body language exhibited by a "stank face", rolling eyes, sucking teeth, interrupting to pass judgment, etc. and can be really toxic. In fact, this is the worse of the four horsemen.

Not to scare you (okay, I am trying to scare you), when you combine the four horsemen with a failed repair attempt, the failure rate for marriage is close to 95%. A failed repair attempt is when one partner tries to resolve the conflict, apologize, or break the silence and is rejected. In fact, one rejection often leads to another, and couples can go 1-2 weeks without making up due to this vicious cycle.

So, you should steer clear of these toxic dynamics and instead focus on the opposite to improve your marriage. For instance...

Criticism should be replaced with expressing your needs in the form of a wish.

"I wish we could go out to eat more and spend more quality time together."

Defensiveness should be replaced with simply owning that you need to make some adjustments.

Stonewalling should be replaced with calming oneself down, taking a time out, revisiting the conflict within an agree upon time (30 minutes, etc.) and expanding one's emotional vocabulary to be able to communicate versus shut down under pressure.

Contempt cannot be easily rectified and often occurs after a pattern of negative interactions over time. It must be replaced with a cultural overhaul where appreciation, respect and decorum are the norm, even when there are disagreements. Typically, when the relationship and marriage is a priority and treated as such, contempt rarely creeps in because the friendship is too strong.

I pray this helps and allows you all to have amazing relationships and marriage as you learn to avoid and replace the four horsemen that destroy even the strongest of marriages.


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