“For a woman, language spoken is an expression of what she is feeling. For a man, language spoken is an expression of what he is thinking. A woman says what is on her heart while a man says what is on his mind.”
Myles Munroe, The Purpose and Power of Love & Marriage
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a metaphor depicting the end of times in the New Testament. They describe conquest, war, hunger, and death, respectively. The same analogy can be used to describe communication styles that, according to research, can predict the end of a relationship. Few people who marry plan for their marriages to fail, but neither do they specifically plan for success.
”The Four Horsemen” that cause relationships to fail are toxic communication styles, namely
Criticism Contempt Defensiveness Stonewalling.
”The Kiss of Death in any relationship = Contempt,” says Dr. John Gottman.
Contempt is the worst and most negative behaviour of the four horsemen in relationships.
Examples of contempt:
- being sarcastic
- mocking a person
- talking down to a person
- rolling your eyes to another person
- hostile humour
If you treat your partner with contempt, it creates conflict between the two of you – and your partner might become
- defensive (it escalates the row), or they
- stonewall you ( they shut down to protect themselves against the emotional abuse).
How can you be a better partner?
If you have fallen into a rut and any of these behaviours are present in your relationship – start small to change things around.
- Decide to be always polite and respectful.
- Be aware of your body language and tone of voice when you talk with your partner.
- Coffee date exercise: Consider making a habit of sitting down every day over a cup of coffee, and ask your partner how their day was – what was good about their day and what was terrible. Give them time to share that with you without interrupting. Just listen quietly. Then, you have a turn and share while your partner listens. If you do this exercise daily – you will better understand your partner’s mood and actions.
Communication is the ability to ensure that people understand not only what you say but also what you mean. It is also the ability to listen to and understand others. Developing both aspects of communication takes a lot of time, patience, and hard work.
- If you have an issue, you need to discuss it with your partner – save up only a few problems and dump them on your partner at once. Stick it to one issue at a time – or it will sound like a declaration of war and criticism. Being open to correction means making ourselves vulnerable; many people are unwilling to do that.
- If you talk, try to use ”I feel…’‘ to start sentences – instead of ”you did…” which conveys blame. If we are focusing on our needs, the relationship is in trouble.
- Never keep scorecards – like reminding your partner what they did wrong ten years ago at a party. Faithfulness to your husband means sticking up for him, always building him up and never tearing him down.
- Do not drop hints – it just angers your partner.
- If you are at the receiving end of contempt – ask your partner why they treat you that way. What do they need, and why do they feel this way?
Rekindle the fire.
Remember what made you fall in love with your partner long ago.
Go out on a weekly date.
Compliment each other.
Look through old photos and talk about the good times you shared.
Consider seeing a couples therapist if you find changing your behaviour towards your partner hard.