from Barking Up the Wrong Tree:
How can he tell who will split up? There are a number of indicators but at the core of Gottman’s research are “ The Four Horsemen.” These are the four things that indicate a marriage apocalypse is on its way:
- Criticism – Complaints are fine. Criticism is more global — it attacks the person, not their behavior. They didn’t take out the garbage because they forgot, but because they’re a bad person.
- Contempt – “…name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. In whatever form, contempt – the worst of the four horsemen – is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with him or her.”
- Defensiveness – “…defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, ‘The problem isn’t me, it’s you.’ Defensiveness just escalates the conflict, which is why it’s so deadly.”
- Stonewalling – Tuning out. Disengaging. This doesn’t just remove the person from the conflict, it ends up removing them, emotionally, from the relationship.