John Gottman is a psychologist and marriage researcher who conducted a study that could accurately predict 90% of the time whether a marriage would fail or not. His research showed that for successful marriages there was a 5:1 positive to negative ratio which means for every one negative action, you must have 5 positive actions to make up for Just that one negative action. In marriages that failed the ratio was quite different at . 8:1 . His research also showed that it’s not conflict that ruins relationships, it’s the way people handle the conflict.
Venting anger constructively can ctually do wonders to clear the air and get a relationship back in balance. However, conflict does become a problem when it is characterized by the presence of what Gottman calls the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling, and a fifth which was later added called belligerence. Criticism is when you are basically implying that there is something wrong with your partner. Instead of attacking the problem, you attack your spouse’s character instead.
Most times when this happens it’ll escalade the problem because you’re attacking them so they probably will become more defensive. A perfect example of this is my cousin and his girlfriend who tends to argue a lot. One argument they had was about him talking to women on social networks. Instead of tackling the problem head on, he criticizes her by saying, “Oh you’re Just very insecure, you’re overly Jealous, and your whole agenda is to catch me doing something. Why this may be true, the criticism only made things worse off because she became defensive and attacked him back verbally, which leads into the second horseman, defensiveness. Defensiveness is when you attempt to defend yourself from a perceived attack with a counter complaint. This defensiveness could be attacking your partner back, trying to play the victim and whine to show innocence, deny responsibility, and make excuses. Even though being defensive is natural, it’s sort of like fuel to a fire.
As stated earlier, when my cousin’s girlfriend attacked him back, she became defensive. The proper way to handle the situation would be to let your partner finish what they have to say, take responsibility for your actions, and then explain your point of view. Contempt is when you place yourself on a pedestal by purposely insulting and bringing your partner down to seem “better than them. Contempt is a very serious sign of disrespect towards your partner that will ultimately destroy the admiration that you guys have for each other.
An example of contemptuous behavior is my uncle who always seemed to throw that he had a degree in his ex wife’s face. He’d use big words, that she might not comprehend, and would then say something like, “Oh well let me dumb it down so you’ll get it then. ” This type of behavior is unacceptable in a relationship and is one reason why they are divorced now. Stonewalling occurs when one partner ignores the other during conversation or nteraction. When you stonewall you’re basically telling your partner that you don’t most men I’m a habitual stonewaller.
Most times in an argument I tune my partner out because I hate conflict. It might seem like I’m nonchalant and don’t care but in reality I do, I Just choose not to engage in the confrontation. Belligerence is when someone expresses their anger in an aggressive, threatening manner. Those who are belligerent in a relationship tend to not want to compromise, have that “my way or the highway’ attitude, and will threaten to end the relationship nstead of working on it. My grandmother is a perfect example of belligerence.
She’s currently divorced and the main reason is because she has that “my way or the highway’ mentality. My grandmother is one of those individuals who has the biggest pride problem ever. She’s never wrong, you’re never right, and at the end of the day she’s not going to compromise for anything or anyone. I remember an argument she had years ago with my grandpa where at the end of it all she told him, “that’s how it’s going to be, and if you don’t like it you know exactly where the door is and how to use t. I’m not sure what the final reason was for them getting their divorce, but I know that dealing with someone who won’t ever compromise was a major factor for my grandpa. No relationship is perfect. All relationships go through a point where someone is expressing signs of criticism, defensiveness, contempt, stonewalling, and belligerence, and it’s even healthy for relationships. All couples will eventually go through turmoil, and will engage in these behaviors mentioned, but when these behaviors become “permanent”, the relationship will only be temporary.
Gottman’s xtensive research showed that the chronic presence of these behaviors will ultimately end a relationship 90% of the time and if nothing is done to correct these problems then divorce or separation is ultimately inevitable. Proper communication, respect, compromise, and looking at something from your spouse’s point of view are very critical for successful relationships. I think talking the time out to hear what your spouse has to say goes along way. It shows that you care about not only them, but the relationship in general, and that you’ll do what it takes to make it work.