By Aly Walansky
Couples argue. Period. Any couple who says, “We never fight!,, I would question the quality of their relationship.
If they are communicating openly and honestly, they are going to disagree at some point. According to relationship expert John Gottman, PhD., here are the four worst ways to disagree:
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
1. Criticism: Attacking your partner’s personality or character; “I’m right, you’re wrong”, “you always…” “you never…”, “you’re the type of person who …”, “why are you so …”
2. Contempt: Attacking your partner’s sense of self through insults/name calling, hostile humor, sarcasm, mockery, and body language/tone of voice (sneering, eye-rolling)
3. Defensiveness: Seeing yourself as a victim and averting a perceived attack by making excuses or whining
4. Stonewalling: Withdrawing from the relationship (physically or emotionally) to avoid conflict. Conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness
So what can you do if you notice yourself participating in criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and/or stonewalling?
1. Make specific complaints & requests (when X happened, I felt Y, I want Z)
2. Listen well. Pay attention to the core emotions your partner is expressing and listen to what your partner really wants/needs.
3. Validate your partner. Show empathy. Let him/her know that you understand what he/she is saying and feeling.
4. Show appreciation and be positive. It takes 5 positive interactions to compensate for one negative interaction! Stack up on the positives.
5. Take responsibility. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this?” & “What can I do about it?”.
6. Re-write your inner script. Replace thoughts of righteous indignation or innocent victimization with thoughts of appreciation that are soothing & validating.
7. Practice letting go. Allow your partner’s fighting words to be what they really are: just words and thoughts. Let go of the stories that you are making up.
And the best part of fighting ~ making up, of course.