If you’re stumbling onto this post by accident, curiosity, or luck, I’ll bring you up to speed: I recently purchased the “Relationship Guides'“ by the Gottman Institute, as a way of bettering my marriage, but also because I’m BUSY and don’t always have the time (or desire, or energy, or commitment) to read a 200 page book.

GIVE ME THE BULLET POINTS so I can be on my way.

These guides are small, 10 page booklets chockfull of information, tips, and a plan to avoid becoming part of the 40% divorce rate. I’ve already reviewed “How to be a Great Listener” here and “Small Things Often” here , if you’re curious on what they’re like.

This post if over one of the topics John Gottman is most known for: the four horsemen. To sum them up, the four horsemen are four ways that, if left running rampant, can be the demise to your marriage. These things seem harmless and may not read as big and bad enough to ruin such a bond, but, one thing that I’ve heard from many divorced couples is that, most of the time, it’s not one big thing. It’s a lot of little things. Hence, why these “little” horsemen pack such a punch.


1) CRITICISM - How often when we get aggravated with our partner/spouse, do we immediately come at them with the “you didn’t do this!” or “you need to do that!” Amongst the other tips in this guide, one of the biggest that stuck with me is to change that “you” to an “'I” and tell them how their actions or lack of made you feel. Instead of feeling attacked, most feel upset that they hurt their partner, because they didn’t know! To learn more, click here to get the guide and see if you’re guilty of criticism.

2) DEFENSIVENESS - We usually get defensive when we’re being or feel like we’re being criticized, right? It’s hard to swallow our pride and admit to being at fault or being in the wrong. BUT, when being defensive, a small argument can escalate rather quickly, causing more damage than expected. Instead of fighting back, take some of the blame that’s rightfully yours. Even if it’s not for the act itself, but how you made your partner feel. “Regardless of who’s right in this situation, I made you feel upset, and I want to know how I can keep from making you feel that way, again.” BOOM.

3) CONTEMPT - This guy is the most toxic of all the horsemen. Steer clear. No message, no matter how kindly and concisely put is going to get across if either person is rolling their eyes, mocking, or using sarcasm. Gottman says, “CONTEMPT IS THE SINGLE BEST PREDICTOR OF RELATIONSHIP DISSOLUTION.” Underneath the name-calling and sneering, is a need, want, or desire that’s not being met. Both people to be clear about your feelings and needs to be rid of that marriage poison.

4) STONEWALLING - I think we've all heard the saying “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” Stonewalling is that to the EXTREME and is usually partnered with avoided eye contact and crossing ones arms. Who else is guilty of this? HEYYOO, THIS GIRL. It’s a natural way to cope with being attacked, BUT it elevates your heart rate and releases stress hormones that make it more difficult for you to listen and creatively solve the problem. Gottman gives antidotes in this guide on how to avoid stonewalling or how to deal with someone who’s stonewalling you. To solve this issue, click here.

We’re all new to marriage no matter how long you’ve been married. It’s new territory for all of us, whether you’ve been married for ten years, thirty five, or three times. Every day is NEW to you that will send NEW challenges that may be similar, but not identical. Why not gear up for when these obstacles inevitably arise, rather than frantically grasp for them when you’re in the thick of it? To do so, click here and comment your thoughts below!