Psychologist Shares The Top 4 Behaviors That May Lead

Psychologist Shares The Top 4 Behaviors That May Lead

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a metaphor described in the last book of the Old Testament that represents the events that happen at the end of the times

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a metaphor described in the last book of the Old Testament that represents the events that happen before the end of the times. Similarly, Dr. John Gottman of The Gottman Institute identified four different patterns of behavior that can predict a divorce in 93% of the time. Even if they don’t lead to a divorce, they can greatly damage and harm the marriage and people in it. That’s why it is important to recognize them, acknowledge the pain they may cause, and work on exchanging them with healthier and more constructive communication and interaction patterns.

1. Criticism

It is normal to be critical of the partner’s behavior sometimes. They may have done something wrong, said something that hurt you, or weren’t considerate of your feelings. However, the important thing to differentiate is criticizing something that a person did vs. criticizing a person. The latter one is actually the first horseman that can lead to marital or relationship problems. This kind of criticism often equates the bad thing a person did with their whole personality. We may say things like “You are never understanding”; “You are always insensitive”; or “Why are you so selfish?”. It can make the other person feel worthless and not loved. Instead, the critique should be aimed towards the specific thing that made us feel some negative emotion. We could say something like “When you didn’t call me after work, I felt like I wasn’t important to you”; “I didn’t like it when you raised your voice”; or “It was a selfish thing to do.” That is far more constructive because they will know what exactly made us feel bad so they can work on changing that behavior, and therefore, we will feel heard and understood.

2. Contempt

The second, and actually the greatest predictor of a divorce or relationship troubles, is contempt. Contempt goes beyond criticism. It makes the other person feel as if they are beneath, worthless, or even disgusting. It can be presented in various ways — grunting, eye-rolling, neglect, disrespect, sarcasm, etc. The person who is exhibiting contempt may belittle their partner, play down their problems, and overall express negative thoughts and emotions towards the other person. Even worse is when both of the people in a marriage have the tendency to do that. Knowing that important foundations of a good marriage are kindness, respect, trust, and intimacy, we can see why the contempt is so bad. Also, no one in a relationship should feel superior, partners should be equal. Some of the verbal examples of contempt can be saying something like “Look at how fat you’ve gotten”; “You can go work out a bit, all you do is sit, drink, and play video games. I had to work for the whole day and now I have to wash the dishes AND cook a meal. Do you even see yourself? How can you live like that? You disgust me." Of course, as mentioned, contempt can be non-verbal too, like eye-rolling or grunting. However, it is important to identify these behaviors and work on eliminating them. It comes from underlying issues and problems that may be solved, so talking to a counselor or a Clinical Psychologist in Miami in  can help.

3. Defensiveness

We have all probably been there. The defensiveness usually comes as a response to criticism. For example, one may say: “Hey, why didn’t you wash the dishes?” and the defensive partner may answer “You know how much work I had today. I also had to make a lot of calls and do the taxes. Why didn’t you do it? You had a lot more time than me, you never do anything anyway.” As you can see, not only it sounds rude, it also sounds like an excuse and an attack on the other person. Sometimes we have a need to defend ourselves, and that’s normal. However, it should be phrased a bit more calmly and nicely. For example, the answer to the question can be “Hey, I totally forgot. I had so much work today and I also had to do the taxes. I am aware that it was my turn so I am really sorry. I will wash the dishes now.” The defensive argument can make both partners mad, while the constructive and calm one can just defuse the situation and solve a problem. It leads to mutual understanding and helps the healthy communication in the marriage.

4. Stonewalling

This is what happens when being in a conflict with the partner becomes overwhelming. It is a mechanism that includes withdrawing from any kind of communication with the partner. It may include silence, turning away, and not listening to the other person. It can also manifest in doing something completely unrelated when the partner is trying to talk. Stonewalling can be done in order to establish some kind of control. It can also be an out when feeling too much anger or too many negative emotions at the same time, accompanied with the feeling of helplessness to control those emotions. A person who is stonewalling (as well as the other person) can also feel some physiological symptoms – fast heartbeat rate, sweating, and headache. It is definitely a bad strategy that may likely lead to a poor outcome. Recognizing when we stonewall and changing that behavior becomes an important part of healing relationships.

It is important to notice that, while we talked about romantic partnerships, these communication styles are not good in any kind of relations, so be aware of them even with friends or family. While these are all the predictors of a divorce, they are also key points that you can start working on if you want to recover intimacy and love, as well as healthy communication in your marriage. Counseling is one of the best and most efficient ways to do that.

Dr. Carolina Raeburn, PsyD is a licensed clinical psychologist. She offers psychotherapy, including couples counseling and marital therapy, to residents of Florida. For more information please visit:

*All the information published in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Any information provided here is offered in generic form.