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Beware of The 4 Horsemen

4 Indications That Could Mean the End of Your Marriage

May 25, 2016 | Christy Little, LMFT


Dr. John Gottman, Ph.D., author of the Seven Principles
for Making Marriage Work and creator of The Sound Marital House theory asserts that there are four behaviors that when left unchecked in a relationship predict whether a couple will stay together or separate/divorce. These are known as the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. If that sounds a bit serious and dramatic, it’s because it is! In fact, Dr. Gottman has been able to predict with 86% certainty whether a couple will stay married or get divorced.

What are the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

  1. Criticism
  2. Criticism is any statement that implies that there is something globally wrong with one’s partner. Criticism attacks the personality and character of your partner instead of addressing a certain behavior. It can also come in the form of generalizations such as using words like “always” and “never”.

  3. Defensiveness
  4. Defensiveness is any attempt to defend oneself from a perceived attack. Defensiveness is often seen when a complaint is stated (or possibly a criticism) and one responds with, “…but what about when you…” It can also come in the form of pointing out all the things one has done right when a complaint it brought up.

  5. Contempt
  6. Contempt is any statement or nonverbal behavior that puts oneself on a higher plane that one’s partner. Contempt can stem from long-term criticism and demonstrates a lack of respect for one’s partner and/or their feelings. Typically, contempt is seen when resentment has built up in a relationship. Sarcasm, eye-rolling, condescending comments, and mocking are all forms of contempt.

  7. Stonewalling
  8. Stonewalling occurs when the listener withdraws from the interaction. This can come in the form of physically leaving the room when a discussion is occurring, not using active listening skills during a conversation, or giving the impression of being “checked out” of the conversation.

Many couples experience one or more of the Horsemen at some point in their relationship. Have you seen any Horsemen in your relationship lately? If so, there are specific strategies I would love to show you and send these Horsemen away for good.

Excerpts taken from The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically-Based Marital Therapy by John M. Gottman, Ph.D.

Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with me, Christy Little, LMFT. I am accepting appointments at our Silverdale location.

Christy Little, LMFT
NW Family Psychology – Silverdale
360 692-3970
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