Successful couples give and
receive feedback and manage disagreements and
differences of opinion with respect, tenderness,
humor and affection.
The Four Horsemen of
According to John Gottman,
there are four things that you must avoid doing
when giving feedback, communicating
dissatisfaction, or having an argument or
disagreement. John Gottman calls these the Four
Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
First, when you are unhappy about some aspect of
your partner's behavior, don't express it as a
criticism of your partner's personality. You are
unlikely to resolve a problem by telling your
partner that they are, for example, selfish,
uncommunicative, unsociable, lazy etc.
Second, don't say things that indicate that you
feel better or superior to your partner. Showing
contempt and condescension by saying things like
"You're so stupid." will lead you to separate
and divorce. Contempt is bad for a relationship
because it communicates dislike for your
partner. Research also shows that people who are
contemptuous of each other are more likely to
suffer from infectious illnesses such as flu and
colds than other people.
Third, avoid being defensive and over-reacting
when your partner complains or says they are
unhappy about something. Try to see things from
their perspective and find constructive feedback
in what they are saying even if the feedback has
not been delivered very tactfully.
When a person thinks that
their partner is always getting at them, they
miss useful feedback and it then becomes very
hard to learn and improve. It is also hard to be
around someone who is highly defensive as people
feel they have to tread on eggshells the whole
time so as not to upset them.
Fourth, avoid stonewalling--for example,
rolling your eyes, turning away and saying
little or nothing at all. When you are receiving
feedback, show your partner that you are
listening. Don't withdrawal emotionally from the
conversation. Individuals in thriving
relationships embrace feedback and criticism in
order to work through their differences and
improve their relationship.
Rubber Band Snap Exercise
||Use this technique
when you find yourself or your partner
exhibiting criticism, contempt,
defensiveness, or stonewalling.
1. Wear a rubber band on one of your
wrists and suggest to your partner that
they do the same.
2. Whenever one of you displays one of
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
behaviors, you should snap your band and
try to rephrase what you want to say in
a different way.
3. You can also use this technique to
snap yourself out of negative thinking
about your relationship. Whenever you
have a negative thought, snap the rubber
band and replace the negative thought
straightaway with a positive one.
4. Sportspeople use this mental skills
technique to counter anxiety and
negative thinking about their