By Felicia Smith, MA, LPCI, Lone Survivor Foundation Retreat Team
Valentine’s Day represents an occasion of love for many couples. While some will celebrate with candy, dinners, illustrious gifts and intimacy, many others with marital challenges may not. If you’re in the latter category, you might be looking for ways to overcome those obstacles and invigorate your marriage. Strategies for a healthy relationship are far better than flowers or candy because they last all year.
Those who have been to Lone Survivor Foundation for a couple’s retreat may have heard about John Gottman’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” Dr. Gottman uses this metaphor to describe communication styles that, according to his research, can predict the end of a relationship. Here’s a brief recap of each.
Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling
- Criticism: attacking your partner’s character, “You never, why are you so…”.
- Contempt: attacking your partner’s sense of self, “You’re a wimp, fat, stupid”.
- Defensiveness: seeing yourself as the victim, “It’s not my fault, I didn’t do that”.
- Stonewalling: withdrawing from the relationship, “Silent treatment”.
4 Tips to Overcome the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
- Criticism: Use positive wording to counteract negative statements.
- Contempt: Offer statements of praise to support your spouse.
- Defensiveness: Own your responsibility in negative interactions OR apologize.
- Stonewalling: Remain present in the relationship even to revisit negative interactions.
During the couple’s retreats, we discuss the corrosive effect of the horsemen on our relationships and learn to practice the best methods for defeating them. As an experienced therapist, I can vouch for their ability to awaken hope and strengthen intimacy. Marriage is often described as work. Yet, after the ceremonial “I do” we tend to think the fairy tale will continue with very little effort. Together we’ll learn to take small daily steps toward investment in the biggest relationships in life, your marriage.
Reference: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman
Lone Survivor Foundation provides a no-cost, high impact program lead by licensed trauma experts for veterans, active duty service members & their families. Learn more at http://bit.ly/lsfprogram