It’s easy to fall in love but to keep your love alive and enduring requires work. According to John Gottman, the guru of healthy and happy relationships, we need to be aware of our negative behaviour patterns, which Dr. Gottman called the “Four Horsemen of Apocalypse”:
Attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong i.e. “you always…” “you never….” “you’re the type of person who…” “why are you so…”!
Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him/her. Insults and name calling: “bitch, bastard, wimp, fat, stupid, ugly, slob, lazy…”. Hostile humour, sarcasm or mockery. Body language & tone of voice: sneering, rolling your eyes, curling your upper lip.
Seeing self as the victim, warding off a perceived attack.
Making excuses (external circumstances beyond your control forced you to act in a certain way) – ” It’s not my fault….”; “He/she made me do it…”
Cross-complaining: meeting your partner’s complaint, or criticism with a complaint of your own; ignoring what your partner said.
Disagreeing and then cross-complaining – “that’s not true, you’re the one who…” “I did this because you did that…”
“Yes…. but” – start off agreeing but end up disagreeing. Repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying. Whining “it’s not fair.”
Withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. Partners may think that they are trying to be “neutral” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness: – Stony silence; monosyllabic mutterings; changing the subject; removing yourself physically; silence treatment.
Make specific complaints & requests. When you said/ did this, I felt….; I want….
Conscious communications: speaking the unarguable truth and listening well
Validate your partner (let your partner know what makes sense to you about what they are saying; let them know you understand what they are feeling, see through their eyes.
Shift to appreciation (5 times as much positive feeling & interaction as negative. Take responsibility: “what can I learn from this?” and “what can I do about it?”.
Re-write your inner script (replace thoughts of righteous indignation or innocent victimisation with thoughts of appreciation, responsibility that are soothing & validating).
Practice not to be on the defensive (allowing your partner’s comments to be what they really are – just thoughts and puffs of air) and let go of your own perception / stories that you are making up.