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  • Writer's pictureHans Reihling

Preventing Divorce: What are the Antidotes to the 4 Horsemen of the Marriage Apocalypse

Are you one of the many couples who feel like roommates, or do you constantly fight over small things? According to recent statistics, over 50% of marriages end in divorce. Don't let your relationship become another statistic, let's work together to overcome the Four Horsemen of the Marriage Apocalypse and find the antidotes.



The "Four Horsemen," as described by Dr. John Gottman, are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. These behaviors can be detrimental to a relationship and are reliable predictors of divorce. Thus, it is vital to address the Four Horsemen in order to improve communication and strengthen the relationship. Luckily, there are antidotes that can help you precent divorce. The four antidotes to the marital apocalypse are starting a discussion gently, describing your feelings and needs, taking responsibility, and self-soothing. Let's look at each of these antidotes to the "4 Horsemen" in detail.


1 - Criticism vs. Gentle Start-Ups


Criticism is about expressing disapproval or negative judgment of someone or something, often in the form of a complaint or a faultfinding remark. It can involve pointing out flaws, shortcomings, or mistakes, and can be directed at a person's behavior, actions, or character. The antidote to criticism is to be gentle when something bothers you. Talk about your feelings using "I" statements, such as "I feel hurt when you do X" instead of "you always do X." Then express a positive need instead of blaming your partner or focusing on what you don't like. This can be a hope, wish, or desire to have something that makes you happy or is crucial to you.


2 - Contempt vs. Describe your Feelings & Needs


Contempt is a feeling or attitude of disdain, disrespect, or superiority towards someone or something. It is often characterized by feelings of disgust, scorn, or disrespect. Contempt can be expressed through verbal or nonverbal cues such as eye-rolling, sarcasm, or name-calling. The antidote to this most powerful relationship slayer is to describe your own feelings and needs. Talk about yourself instead of describing your partner. Instead of saying, "You're a controlling ***," you might say, "I felt hurt about not being included in your conversation about our child's education. I want to be given an opportunity to express my point of view."


3 - Defensiveness vs. Taking Responsibility


Defensiveness is a reaction to a perceived threat or attack in which partners become protective of themselves, their actions, or their point of view. Defensiveness can manifest as a feeling of being unjustly accused and often involves a counter-accusation, denial of responsibility, or justification of one's own actions. For example: "It’s not my fault that the kitchen is a mess again, you didn't put away your dishes." The antidote to defensiveness is taking responsibility for your actions and apologizing when necessary. Instead of getting defensive, try to understand where your partner is coming from and work towards a resolution. You could say, "Well, part of this is my problem, I forgot to clean the counters."


4 - Stonewalling vs. Physiological Self-soothing


Stonewalling is a form of emotional withdrawal, in which a person disengages from a conversation or interaction and becomes emotionally distant. It is characterized by a lack of emotional and physical responsiveness, such as not making eye contact, not responding to questions, or suddenly leaving the room. The antidote for stonewalling is self-soothing in order to stay emotionally connected to your partner. Take a break when things get too heated, but make sure to come back and address the issue. People who stonewall may outwardly appear calm, but may have a heart rate over 100 beats per minute. What relaxes you most effectively?


The antidotes to the Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse, as described by Dr. John Gottman can prevent divorce. However, it's important to note that addressing the Four Horsemen takes time and effort, and both partners need to be willing to work on the relationship and change their behavior. Focusing on improving communication and building a culture of appreciation and respect in a relationship is the first step. This includes using "I" statements to express feelings and needs, accepting responsibility for one's actions, and self-soothing, so conflicts don't escalate. There are other strategies that can be highly effective. If you want to learn more about preventing divorce, send me an email to schedule a free consultation.


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