top of page
  • Dr. Leyla Gulcur, Ph.D.

The Four Horsemen of the apocalypse for couples - and their antidotes!

Gottman's Four Horsemen are four negative communication styles identified by John and Julie Gottman in their research on couples. These styles are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. When these patterns of behavior become persistent and repeated, they can lead to the destruction of relationships.


Criticism is an attack on the person rather than the behavior. It is a negative statement about the character of the person, rather than an expression of a need or a grievance. Criticism can leave the other person feeling belittled and invalidated.


Contempt is a form of criticism that is especially damaging because it expresses a deep-seated disdain for the other person. It can take the form of verbal insults, name-calling, and ridiculing.


Defensiveness is a response to criticism or contempt that involves denying responsibility and making excuses. It can also involve counter-attacking or trying to minimize the issue. Defensiveness can make the other person feel like their feelings and opinions are not being taken seriously.


Stonewalling is the act of withdrawing from the conversation. It is a form of avoidance that can leave the other person feeling unheard and unacknowledged.


Gottman's Four Horsemen are powerful forces that can lead to the destruction of relationships. It is important to be aware of these patterns of behavior and to take steps to communicate in a more constructive way. Effective communication is an important part of maintaining healthy relationships.


Fortunately, there are antidotes for each of the horsemen.


For criticism: Instead of attacking the person, focus on the issue at hand and express your feelings and needs.


For contempt: Aim to build a culture of appreciation and respect in your relationship. Make an effort to express your positive feelings and to recognize the positive qualities of your partner.


For defensiveness: Take responsibility for your part in the situation and try to understand your partner's perspective.


For stonewalling: Make an effort to stay engaged in the conversation. Listen to your partner's feelings and try to empathize.



By using these antidotes, it is possible to replace the destructive patterns of the Four Horsemen with more constructive and positive communication styles. This can help to strengthen your relationship and create more understanding and connection.

4 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page