How to Have a Better Marriage
People often come to couples counseling because they don’t know how to communicate with their partner anymore. There is a great book by Dr. John Gottman called the 7 Principles of Making Marriage Work. It is a great book to read if you are looking to start couples counseling. In that book Dr. Gottman goes over The 4 Horseman. Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling. The 4 Horseman are a predictor of divorce. If you are doing any of the 4 Horseman, don’t lose hope, with the help of a counselor, you can get your marriage back on track.
Everyone has experienced criticism at one time or another. When criticism comes from your partner or loved one, it can be especially harsh. By using words such as “you always, you never,” is a sure way to have your partner shut down and not listen to what you are saying. It would be better to use a compliant then to criticize.
The following is an example.
complaint example- I noticed that the grass has gotten really long. You agreed to mow the lawn as one of your chores and it bothers me that it hasn’t been getting done regularly. Do you think you ca get it done before dinner?
Criticism example- You agreed to mow the lawn when we divided up the chores
and you having been doing it. You always let me down. You’re so lazy.
Not listening to your partner, calling them names, rolling your eyes, mocking your partner, looking at them with disgust, are ways you are showing contempt in your relationship. Contempt may also by disguised as humor that is condescending and insulting towards the other person. This one is the most dangerous. If you are showing contempt in your relationship, you could be on the road to a breakup. In couples counseling there are ways to reduce and eliminate contemptuous exchanges.
When you argue with your partner, and attempt to defend yourself from a verbal attack, that is being defensive. Being defensive can quickly escalate an argument where no one is listening. People become defensive because they think it make the situation better. Start taking responsibly for the problems in your relationship.
Stonewalling happens when your partner does not listen to what you are saying. They may walk away, or withdraw and not pay attention to what is being said. This makes your partner even angrier. A solution is to agree to talk when both of you are ready is listen. Start talking about your complaints as soon as they happen instead of holding it all in until you explode in anger.