In Gottman’s marriage research, the research found four types of negative interactions to be a marriage killer to relationships. The research determined that if these four kinds of negativity are allowed to continue and increase, the marriage will not survive. Gottman referred to these negative interactions as the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. The four types of negative interactions are: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.
Marriage Killer Number 1: Criticism
Whether it is a roommate, partner, or a spouse, there sill be some conflict with the other person that you are living with. No two people see the world the same or have the same values. Yet there is a big difference between complaining about the other person versus criticism of the other person. The main difference between the two is where the specific focus is upon.
Complain Verses Criticism
A complaint has a focus on a specific action or event such as how the spouse forgot to put the dishes away after the dishwasher finished. “Last night, you forgot to put the dishes away after the dishwasher completed the drying cycle. You said you’d do that. Could you do it now?” is the complaint from the other spouse. Gottman states that complaints have three parts: “(1) Here’s how I feel (‘I’m really angry’); (2) About a very specific situation (‘you didn’t sweep last night’); (3) And here’s what I need/want/prefer (‘Could you do it now?’).”
Focus Is On The Person Rather Than Behavior/Event
A criticism is different because it focuses more on the integrity or character of the partner. “Why are you so stupid? You are always so lazy!” Gottman refers to conversations that begin with criticism as “harsh start-ups” and often contain the cognitive distortion over-generalization words, “you always” or “you never.” The most used statement that often turns a complaint into a criticism is, “What is wrong with you?”
Seek Marriage Counseling For Help
If you are recognizing many of your own patters of criticism or that your spouse often turns complaints into personal criticism of you, then please contact our center to meet with a marriage counselor to save your marriage. This first marriage killer is very common in couples but when it becomes common, then the research shows the marriage to be in trouble and opens the door to more damaging horseman.