The 4 Behaviors That Will Destroy Your Marriage






Research shows that if these four behaviors are chronically evident in your marriage then there is a 82% chance that your marriage will eventually end in divorce. Dr. John Gottman calls these four behaviors the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.


Because it is a metaphor depicting the end times in the Bible in which the Horsemen represent war, death and destruction. And these four behaviors depict the end times of a marriage. These 4 behaviors aka the Four Horsemen are


#1 Criticism


#2 Contempt


#3 Defensiveness


#4 Stonewalling

If these behaviors are chronically evident in your marriage you will be feeling frustrated, pain, anxiety, hopelessness, alone, and wondering why you married this person.


Thus if you desire to save your marriage from destruction and return to happiness, it will be vital that if you see these behaviors in your marriage to get professional help sooner rather than later if you want to be happy.


Lets explore the Four Horsemen of the Relational Appocalypse in more depth….


Behavior #1: Criticism


The first horsemen is criticism. Criticism is a general attack on your spouses character. Many people get confused between criticism and complaint because they may seem similar but they are two very different messages.


Both a complaint and criticism involve negative emotions but only a complaint has the potential to lead to connection and criticism pushes your spouse away. A complaint addresses a specific behavior that your spouse has done which has caused you to be frustrated, sad, hurt ect.


Both a complaint and criticism involve negative emotions but only a complaint has the potential to lead to connection and criticism pushes your spouse away.

A complaint is supposed to produce guilt and lead to changed behavior in your spouse that leads to your spouse being there for you and ultimately leading to deeper connection.


Criticism on the other hand is an attack on your partners character when they do something that frustrates you. You will hear yourself use these key phrases such as “you always” or “you never”. You will also assign negative meaning towards your partners actions. And you will see them as being self centered.


When you criticize your spouse the message you are sending to your spouse is that there is something wrong with them. And criticism does not lead to guilt and changed action on the part of your spouse.


Criticism leads to shame which then leads your spouse to either defend or withdraw from you.

It is important to know that criticism produces Criticism produces does the opposite of guilt, it produces shame in your partner which leads to your partner not connecting with you but withdrawing from you in their shame.


Examples of Complaint vs. Criticism


Complaint:

"Why didn’t you call me when you were coming home late from work? We agreed that you would call so that I could know if I needed to give kids dinner before you got home if you worked late or if we could have dinner together as family. You have to do better job because it stresses me out and makes me feel as if I am not important to you to just call."


Criticism:

"You are the most selfish person I know! You never consider how I feel or how your family feels. I have been trying to call you and you never pick up when I need you to pick up! How am I supposed to know if you are coming home for dinner or not! You always do this! You always let the kids down because they thought you wanted to have dinner with us tonight!


The problem with criticism is that it when it becomes pervasive in your marriage and you do not repair from the damage that criticism did to your connection.

It is important to note that even the most amazing marriages will find themselves being critical of each other. Don’t assume your marriage is doomed to fail. The problem with criticism is that it when it becomes pervasive in your marriage and you do not repair from the damage that criticism did to your connection. Because if you do not repair from the damage of criticism it paves the way for the other much deadlier horsemen to follow.


Behavior #2: CONTEMPT


Second horsemen is contempt. Contempt is the most dangerous of all the four horsemen because the research shows that this behavior is the number one predictor of divorce in a marriage. What is contempt?


  • Sarcasm

  • Cynicism

  • Name calling

  • Eye rolling

  • Sneering

  • Mockery

  • Hostile humor

  • Sense of moral superiority

The reason contempt is the most deadly of all the horsemen, is because of the message contempt sends to your spouse.

Contempt is the most dangerous of all the four horsemen because the research shows that this behavior is the number one predictor of divorce in a marriage.

Contempt conveys the message of disgust to your partner. That you are disgusted with who they are as a person. It is 100% impossible to solve a problem or repair damage of disconnection if you or your partner is getting the message that you are disgusted with him or her.


Inevitably contempt leads to more hostile conflict rather than repair and reconciliation.


Contempt conveys the message of disgust to your partner.

Contempt is fueled by long simmering negative thoughts about your partner because you have not been able to resolve or repair your differences in conflict. The more you and your partner do not repair your differences after a conflict the more negative thoughts about your partner will arise which will give way to being contemptuous to your partner quicker next time a conflict arises.


Example of Contempt:


"You are the most crazy woman I have ever met. All you do is complain and nag me. You are lucky I married you because you are so crazy that no one would have ever married you, if they knew who you truly are as a human being."


If you see contempt in your marriage on a semi – regular basis, you need to find help to repair the damage of unresolved and unrepaired conflict has inflicted upon your marriage or else contempt will run rampant in your marriage.


Behavior #3: DEFENSIVENESS


The third horsemen is defensiveness and it is usually a response to either criticism or perceived criticism from your partner in the form of either a complaint or a question.


When we feel unjustly accused, we fish for excuses and play the innocent victim so that our partner will back off.


The message you send when you get defensive is that you do not take their concerns or emotions seriously and that ultimately who they are does not matter enough for you to listen.

But this strategy is never successful, it actually enhances your partners negativity, criticisim and contempt towards you.


The message you send when you get defensive is that you do not take their concerns or emotions seriously and that ultimately who they are does not matter enough for you to listen.


You place the blame on them by saying that their concern is not your problem and that you will not take any responsibility for your part in the conflict.


Behavior #4: STONEWALLING


The fourth horsemen is stonewalling. Which is usually a response to contempt. Stonewalling occurs when the partner who is listening either walks away from conflict or shuts down emotionally from conflict.


It takes time of negativity from the other three horsemen for stonewalling to occur in your relationship. And stonewalling is a very hard habit to break due to how physiologically aroused aka emotionally flooded the stonewaller is.


Stonewalling is very hard habit to break due to how physiologically aroused the spouse is, their heart rates will be past 100 bpm, and will be in automatic fight or flight mode.

His or her heart rate will be elevated past 100 bpm, they will be flooded with adrenaline and other stress hormones. Their bodies are in full state of automatic flight and will not be able to physically discuss an area of conflict because they are in full blown fight or flight mode.


Conclusion

It is imperative that if you see these four behaviors showing up in your marriage that you and your spouse make a conscious effort to be able to stop them because the research is crystal clear that the presence of these four behaviors will ultimately be the demise of your marriage.


Being able to identify the Four Horsemen in your conflict discussions is a vital first step to eliminating them.


If you cannot stop these behaviors in your marriage and you are seeing these behaviors more in your marriage please get help before it is too late.


There is no shame in getting help to stop these behaviors from ruining your marriage.


This is why at Dickens Marriage Therapy we have a scientifically validated therapy that will help you stop these behaviors from ruining your marriage.


Call today to schedule a free consultation marriage breakthrough session or you can fill out this CONTACT FORM to end these four behaviors from ruining your marriage.


Dedicated to your marriage and families success,

Luke Dickens, MMFT




Luke Dickens Marriage Therapist at Wired for Connection Marriage Therapy & Coaching









Luke Dickens

Luke Dickens is the Founder of Luke Dickens Marriage Therapy in Southlake Texas. He has a scientifically validated therapy that heals marriages that suffer from affairs to communication issues and more. Using EFT couples therapy, there is over 89% success rate with couples going through the therapy process.




Related Articles

5 Reasons Why Emotionally Intelligent Husbands Are Key To Happy Marriage


358 views0 comments