The 4 Horsemen to Avoid During an Argument

Arguments are unavoidable, but how you handle them determines the success of a relationship.

John and Julie Gottman, renowned relationship experts, discovered 4 behaviors, known as the 4 Horsemen, that are 93% accurate in predicting breakup or divorce.

Here are the 4 Horsemen to avoid and approaches to try instead: 


Criticism can be constructive. However when it’s used to blame your partner it becomes destructive. These are two tell-tale signs of negative criticism:


“You never listen to me. You are always just staring at your phone.”

Instead try: 

“I’m not feeling heard when I try to tell you about my day.”


When you feel attacked, going on the defense can be a natural reaction. However, reacting too quickly by making excuses or deflecting blame can make your partner feel unheard. 


“That’s not true. I keep the kitchen clean. Anyway, I keep the bathroom way cleaner than you.”

Instead try: 

“I’m hearing that you want me to clean up the kitchen more. What specifically is bothering you?”


Contempt is an even more extreme version of criticism that focuses on putting your partner down using condescending language, disrespect, disgust, and ridicule. Examples include mean-spirited sarcasm, name-calling, and eye-rolling. 


“What were you thinking? You can be such an idiot.”

Instead try: 

Remember what you love and appreciate about your partner and consider reframing the argument around how you are feeling instead of focusing on your partner’s shortcomings. 


Stonewalling is a way to shut down the conversation and create distance between you and your partner, which can make your partner feel rejected or abandoned. 


Abruptly leaving the conversation or “giving the silent treatment.”

Instead try: 

"I need to take a few minutes to calm down before we continue the conversation. Let's chat more about this later tonight when I'm in a better place."

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