Couples Therapy & Marriage Counseling
Gottman’s Four Horsemen Predict Divorce
A Couples Place serves all communities of Marin County including San Rafael, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Greenbrae,
Kentfield, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Ross, San Anselmo, Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, and Novato, California.
Dr. John Gottman’s
“The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”
are Divorce Predictors.
When you attempt to defend yourself from a perceived attack with a counter complaint you are being defensive. Another way to be defensive is to whine like an innocent victim. Unfortunately, defensiveness keeps partners from taking responsibility for problems and escalates negative communication. Even if your partner is criticizing you, defensiveness is not the way to go. It will only fuel a bad exchange. The antidote to defensiveness is to try to hear your partner’s complaint and to take some responsibility for the problem.
Lisa Lund, MFT
Certified Gottman Therapist
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
A Couple’s Place
1036 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
Kentfield, CA 94904
Using the research-based approach for couples therapy & marriage counseling, A Couples Place teaches partners how to avoid Gottman’s Four Horsemen. The Counseling Center serves all of Marin County, California, including the communities of: San Rafael, Corte Madera, Fairfax, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Mill Valley, Ross, San Anselmo, Sausalito, Tiburon, Belvedere, and Novato, California.
In addition to offering couples The Art & SCIENCE of Love - Weekend Retreat Couples Workshops (which are also eligible for continuing education units for professional clinicians), we train therapists to use research-based Gottman-Method couples therapy for their clientele with relationship issues.
Our other websites include aCouplesWorkshop.com for The Art & SCIENCE of Love - Weekend Retreat Couples Workshops and TrainingForCouplesTherapy.com for therapists interested in learning Gottman-Method Couples Therapy.
Our clientele is diverse and includes married, cohabiting, straight and gay couples as well as individuals.
Copyright © 2008 - 2017 by Lisa Lund. All Rights Reserved.
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When you criticize your partner you are basically implying that there is something wrong with them. You have taken a problem between you and put it inside your partner’s body. Using the words: “You always” or “you never” are common ways to criticize. Your partner is most likely to feel under attack and to respond defensively. This is a dangerous pattern to get into because neither person feels heard and both may begin to feel bad about themselves in the presence of the other. The antidote to criticism is to make a direct complaint that is not a global attack on your partner’s personality.
Contempt is any statement or nonverbal behavior that puts yourself on a higher ground than your partner. Mocking your partner, calling them names, rolling your eyes and sneering in disgust are all examples of contempt. Of all the horsemen, contempt is the most serious. Couples have to realize that these types of put downs will destroy the fondness and admiration between them. The antidote to contempt is to lower your tolerance for contemptuous statements and behaviors and to actively work on building a culture of appreciation in the relationship. Is it easy? No. Can it be done? Yes. In Gottman therapy there are many exercises we can use to help you learn to reduce, repair and eliminate contemptuous exchanges.
Stonewalling happens when the listener withdraws from the conversation. The stonewaller might actually physically leave or they might just stop tracking the conversation and appear to shut down. The Stonewaller may look like he doesn’t care (80% are men) but that usually isn’t the case. Typically they are overwhelmed and are trying to calm themselves. Unfortunately, this seldom works because the partner, especially if a woman, is likely to assume they don’t care enough about the problem to talk about it. It can be a vicious circle with one person demanding to talk and the other looking for escape. The antidote is to learn to identify the signs that you or your partner is starting to feel emotionally overwhelmed and to agree together to take a break. If the problem still needs to be discussed then pick it up when you are calmer.
When a couple’s relationship is in a crisis, they’re suffering from a loss of connection. Learn More.
He found that not all negatives are alike. Four of them stood out as being the most destructive and biggest predictors of divorce and separation. Gottman dubbed these, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They are Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling. While most relationships will have some of these, healthy relationships don’t use them nearly as often and do more to repair them when they are used.
If you are noticing any of the these styles of communicating increasing in your discussions, act now to learn safer and more effective ways to talk about your differences. In Gottman therapy, there are several structured exercises that we use with couples to help them assert themselves with one another in effective ways that don’t include the Four Horsemen. We’ll also work on your friendship and building your connection with one another when you aren’t fighting. The fact is, couples are better at repairing their negative arguments when they basically feel close and connected, and are good friends.
We’ll teach you the skills
necessary to communicate
your strong emotions
in effective ways
that address issues,
while protecting your relationship!
In Gottman’s research on marriages, he asked two questions:
1. What makes for a satisfying marriage?
2. What predicts divorce?
If any of these negative styles of communication fit your relationship, don’t despair.
We can help you change them if you are willing to try something new.
Most couples who do the work get results.
• Four Horsemen