Researcher says he can predict which relationships will last
By Kyle Lentsch
Breaking up is hard to do and relationships can be a lot of work. At some point pretty much everyone will experience a broken heart or failed relationship. People continue to date in hope that someday they will meet the right person and it will work out
Well, maybe it all can.
John Gottman, a psychologist at the University of Washington, created the “horsemen” of relationships. The horsemen are a metaphor depicting the end of times in the Bible. They describe conquest, war, hunger and death respectively. Gottman uses this metaphor to describe communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship.
Gottman studied more than 2,000 married couples over two decades. He discovered patterns about how partners relate to each other which can be used to predict – with 94 percent accuracy – which marriages will succeed and which will fail. Gottman says that each horseman paves the way for the next.
The horseman is essentially the key to having a successful relationship and marriage. Whether it may work for all couples depends on many different things. However, these guidelines have been known and even proven to work.
Gottman’s first horseman is Criticism (telling the other person his or her faults). This also involves attacking your partner’s personality or character, rather than focusing on the specific behavior that bothers you. There is a difference between saying, “I’m upset that you didn’t take out the trash” and saying, “I can’t believe you didn’t take out the trash. You’re just so irresponsible.” In general, women are more likely to pull this horseman into conflict.
The second horseman is Contempt (making sarcastic or cutting remarks about the other person). Contempt is one step up from criticism and involves tearing down or being insulting toward your partner. Contempt is an open sign of disrespect. Insulting your partner, rolling your eyes, sneering, or tearing down the other person with so-called “humor” are ways that contempt can be portrayed.
Gottman’s third horseman is Defensiveness (reacting to certain subjects by denying responsibility, or refusing to discuss an issue the spouse regards as important). Adopting a defensive stance in the middle of conflict may be a natural response, but it does not help a relationship. When a person is defensive, they often experience a great deal of tension and have difficulty tuning into what is being said. Denying responsibility, making excuses or meeting one complaint with another are all examples of defensiveness.
The final horseman is Stonewalling- withdrawal (also called showing no reaction, having a blank look, or ceasing to care). People who stonewall simply refuse to respond. Occasional stonewalling can be healthy in a relationship, but as a typical way of interacting, stonewalling during conflict can be destructive. When you stonewall on a regular basis, you are pulling yourself out of the relationship, rather than working out your problems. Men tend to engage in stonewalling much more often than women do.
According to Gottman, at some point all couples will engage in these types of behaviors, but when the four horsemen take permanent residence, the relationship has a high likelihood of failing. When attempts to repair the damage done by these horsemen are met with repeated rejection, Gottman says there is over a 90 percent chance the relationship will end in divorce.
These guidelines may be based upon married couples but they most certainly can be applied to serious or long term dating relationships. If these guidelines can predict what to do to avoid divorce and significant relationship issues, than they can most certainly help out any relationship. They may even help to improve a relationship with a current boyfriend or girlfriend enough that the couple chooses to take the next step.
Gottman’s horseman may only be the blueprint of the key to a successful relationship. However, if these guidelines can truly help, what does anyone have to lose to try it out and see what happens?