Signs To Observe And Act Upon To Keep Your Relationship From Falling Off The Rails - The Gottman Theory

Signs To Observe And Act Upon To Keep Your Relationship From Falling Off The Rails - The Gottman Theory


What if I said that you need only 3 minutes of observation to predict the sustainability of your relationship?

Sounds implausible, right?

But it's not.

According to John Gottman, who's recognized as one of the 10 most influential therapists of the past quarter-century, there are 4 signs to pay attention to in order to find out if your relationship is going to fall off the rails.

And yes - he does it within 3 minutes of watching the two of you fight.

This theory is known as the 4 Horsemen of Apocalypse and comprises of the following elements:

✓ Criticism

✓ Defensiveness

✓ Stonewalling

✓ Contempt

Let's dive in, shall we?


"You always! We never!". Criticism turns into a horseman of apocalypse especially when it's a severe, global attack. Pointing out your partner's mistake is not always a bad thing and should be a part of any honest relationship.

But, criticism requires a proper level of communication. So, when you don't like something, judge YOUR FEELINGS about someone's BEHAVIOR.

Never judge the person in toto. It doesn't work.

By the way, we get what you're aiming for. In most of the cases, by criticizing you fight to be heard, seen or listened to but if you communicate the wrong way, you're more likely to get a defensive reaction.

To express constructively, choose positive communication. It brings out the best in yourself and in those around you.

For example, instead of "You're so lazy! You never help around the house! I guess I just don't matter to you!", use "I understand you're very tired. I know you hate housework. But I need you to know that it would make me very happy if you could take the dishes out of the washer without asking. I hope it's not a big deal and for you and will make a huge difference in my mood. What do you think about it?"

Notice the difference in expressing the same situation in two ways?

It requires a certain level of self-consciousness and empathy to use positive communication. So by trying to communicate positively, you also get to work on important social skills.

Now that's a jackpot!


"Me? and what about you? I'm the one who should complain! I'm the victim! Poor me, bad you!"

When you don't listen to what the other person has to say, you defend yourself by throwing in arguments not related to the issue.

It's an old trick.

And definitely more invasive than you think.

It's building a wall between you and your partner. And it will lead to you giving up on sharing any honest thoughts with your partner.

So in case of defensiveness, you fight for your self-image and as a result, you can actually knock-out your love life. It's true that defensiveness keeps you from taking any real responsibility for struggles you face as a couple.

And even if your partner is criticizing something you've done, defensiveness is not the way to react.

Want to know the anti-defensiveness trick?

Seat together, and decide who's going to speak first. Start with: I'm taking responsibility for ... (finish the sentence according to YOUR REAL thoughts and feelings, so you need to be self-aware first).

Then, the second person says, "Thank you" (That's it. No "butting".)

And then start the former sentence in the same manner. No matter how good arguments you have in order to defend yourself, try to listen and hear each other out.

Your egos will survive, believe us!

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You're stonewalling when you choose to avoid confrontation and cope with conflict.

For example, you rescind from conversations and act indifferent with your partner who's already pissed off and wants to lay down the reasons.

Why are you doing it? Do you want to punish your partner with silent treatment? Or maybe you're feeling emotionally overwhelmed?

No matter the reason, what you need to be aware is that if it ends up becoming a habit, it'll cause damage to your relationship.

A better idea is to come back after a short break and talk about the problem in order to water the situation. But DISCUSS and not avoid.

Don't let resentment to grow under a silent disguise. Right?


And now, the most serious horsemen of all - Contempt.

An absolute killer of trust, intimacy, and endearment 'contempt' is a verbal attack or nonverbal behavior communicating hate and disgust or a moment from a position of superiority.

Even when at times you can't stand your partner and in your sadistic fantasy, you laugh at their vulnerability with a sense of superiority - it's contempt for your partner.


NEVER. Never invite contempt to your life.

Deal with your anger, name and express your feelings and appreciate, admire it.

Do it daily.

Stay solid.

Being a good couple doesn't mean that you don't have your share of anger with each other or don't feel distant from your partner. At times, it’s absolutely ok.

Being a good couple means you can treat your indifference with RESPECT. It's when you think before you say anything or act. As simple as that. But it's not easy...not always.

Passionate feelings have always contained an amount of aggression, frustration and at times even hate.

According to specialists, the skill to continue loving your long-term partner is based on sustaining your hate and contempt. Of course, ideals don't exist but keeping the idealized image of your partner in mind is crucial to say in love.

What is your opinion of the Gottman theory? Have you ever experienced the invasion of 4 horsemen? What tricks do you have up your sleeve to make them behave like nice cavalrymen?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.



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