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The Four Horsemen

I’ve been a big fan of John Gottman since I first read “Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”, long before I became a psychotherapist myself. He’s not a therapist, he’s a researcher with 25 years of watching couples interact in his “Love Lab” project. In that time, his success rate for predicting couples that will stay together versus those on the verge of implosion, is somewhere north of 90%. A big part of his observations revolve around behaviours he has termed “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling) and how couples attempt — or don’t — to repair connections when those behaviours occur.

This article from Psychology Today does a great job of summing up those behaviours and their potentially-destructive impact on relationships; the section on how to circumvent or repair them is, in my opinion, pretty scanty, but sometimes the hardest work I do with clients is simply getting them to (a) *SEE* these behaviours in the first place, then (b) acknowledge their intimacy-destroying impacts. Relationship counselling is often largely about then figuring out how best to build more effective repair attempts into the relationship interactions.

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