We get married hoping and dreaming of the future. Everyone wants and believes that their marriage will last a lifetime. So how do these dreams get dashed on the rocks of despair for far to many couples? Some marriages fail because of addiction, adultery, or abuse but, most marriage fail because over time they become disconnected through a pattern of communication and neglect.
Is it possible to predict whether marriage will last? Researcher Dr. John Gottman can listen to a couple for 5 minutes and determine, with 91% accuracy, whether they’ll divorce. Gottmans research has been the benchmark that others have used to understand how to improve marriage and his research has identified four types of communication that destroys a marriage.
The Four Horsemen of Marriage Apocalypse
At the core of Gottman’s research that he presents in Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work are what he calls the ” The Four Horsemen.” These four things indicate that a marriage apocalypse is on its way:
- Criticism – Every couple will complain at times but criticism is more global — it attacks the person, not their behavior. “They didn’t clean the kitchen or cut the grass because they forgot, but because they’re a bad person”.
- Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear – Ephesians 4:29 ESV
- Contempt – this is “…name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and cynical or hostile humor. In whatever form, contempt – the worst of the four horsemen – is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with him or her.”
- Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you – Ephesians 4:32 ESV
- Defensiveness – “…defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, ‘The problem isn’t me, it’s you.’ Defensiveness just escalates the conflict, which is why it’s so deadly.”
- Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things – 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 ESV
- Stonewalling – Tuning out or disengaging emotionally or physically. This doesn’t just remove the person from the conflict, it ends up removing them, emotionally, from the relationship.
- A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another – John 13:34-35
The point that needs to be emphasized is this a pattern of behavior. We all have bad days and struggle at times, but this type of interaction becomes that pattern of interaction. My hope and prayer us that you will allow God to change your heart and create a pattern of positive interaction.
It is possible to change this pattern. Look for future posts to explain this more and give the solutions to correct and repair this cycle of communication.
This is a very good short video from the Gottman institute that explains the 4 horseman and their antidotes.