Antidotes to the Four Horsemen of Relationship Hell: Answering the How's

Does this theory really work?

Did Gottman REALLY make a point here?

Well, do you sometimes feel like you're in a bad relationship? You're not alone. According to Dr. John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. But what are the things that lead to these failed relationships? Let's quickly run you through the basics and a quick recap of our previous blog post. Gottman has identified four horsemen that can doom a relationship if they're not addressed: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. In this blog post, we'll discuss each of these horsemen and offer some antidotes to help you save your relationship!

Can antidotes really save your marriage or relationship?

Fixing, Fumbling, Flowing, Growing.

The short answer is yes. The long answer is that it depends on the couple and how invested they are in making things work. But if you're reading this, there's still hope for your relationship! And don't forget, you're not alone.


The author of "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" (John Gray,1992) proposes some approaches to better understanding the communication styles and emotional requirements of the opposing gender in order to strengthen husband-wife interactions. He claims that women and men have different communication styles and emotional needs. For example, women complain because they want their concerns to be noticed, but males complain because they want to discover answers. Women are unsatisfied when their husbands refuse to accept the problem, while men are frustrated when their wives refuse to assist them in finding a solution. It leads to misunderstandings and tensions between the spouses.


Marriage counselling has been proven to be an effective way to help couples understand their different communication styles and emotional needs. By understanding these differences, husbands and wives or partners can learn how to better interact with each other. They can learn how to provide the support and understanding that is needed for a healthy, happy relationship.

Here's a look at the antidotes:

1. Criticism

"You can't do anything right!"

This goes beyond simply pointing out a mistake or giving feedback; it's attacking your partner's character or personality. For example, saying "You're always late" or "You never help around the house." It can be difficult to stop criticizing". Criticism is defined as attacking your partner's character or personality instead of their behaviour. This can be destructive because it puts your partner on the defensive and makes them feel attacked.

The antidote to criticism is a gentle start-up.

When you're upset, try to start the conversation by describing what you're seeing, feeling, and needing without attacking your partner's character. For example, "I'm noticing that you didn't take out the trash like you said you would. I'm feeling frustrated because I have to do it myself."


2. Defensiveness

Learning to apologize and take ownership

Defensiveness is when we protect ourselves from attack by refusing to take any responsibility for our actions. We might do this by making excuses, denying that we did anything wrong, or blaming our partner.

The antidote to defensiveness according to Gottman is taking responsibility.

This means admitting that we did something wrong, even if it was only a small thing, and apologizing for it. It's okay to be the bigger person sometimes.


3. Contempt

Getting rid of contempt

Contempt is the third of the four horsemen, and it's probably the one that does the most damage to a relationship. It's when we start to see our partner as inferior, or even worse, as something that needs to be avoided.

Sharing fondness and admiration is the antidote to contempt.

When we feel contemptuous towards our partners, it's usually because we stopped seeing them as individuals with their own thoughts and feelings and started seeing them as objects that exist solely to meet our needs. The antidote to this is to start seeing our partners as whole people again by remembering all the good things about them and sharing those things with them.


4. Stonewalling

Navigating through stonewalling

The final horseman of relationship hell is stonewalling. Stonewalling happens when one person shuts down completely during an argument in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed or attacked. They stop communicating and there is a breakdown in the relationship.

The best way to deal with stonewalling is to learn some physiological self-soothing skills.

This means being able to soothe yourself when you feel overwhelmed or stressed instead of taking it out on your partner. You can work it out with your therapist on ways to help physically calm yourself down.

So which one may be the hardest?

We're in this together!

When it comes to the four horsemen of relationship hell, stonewalling can be one of the most difficult problems to overcome. This occurs when one partner shuts down completely and withdraws from all communication with the other. This can be a sign of anger, frustration, or hurt feelings. It often leads to even more misunderstandings and tension between the spouses.


Stonewalling can be very harmful to a relationship, but there are things that you can do to help overcome this problem. One key is learning how to soothe yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out.

There are many different self-soothing techniques that you can try, such as yoga, relaxation exercises, or reading a book.

Another key is to make sure that you are not taking all of the blame for the problems in your relationship. It is important to take responsibility for your own actions, but it is also necessary to be understanding and forgiving of your spouse's mistakes. Finally, you should make an effort to express fondness and admiration for your partner on a regular basis. This will help keep the relationship strong and healthy.


Let your partner know if you need to take a few deep breaths and collect your thoughts, and then return to the talk when you're ready. Your partner will then be able to realise that you are taking care of yourself rather than rejecting him in this manner.

To summarize

Team work makes the dream work!

Here's everything you can try out today with your partner! Let's beat the Monday blues and create a happier week:


Gentle start-up: Compliment your spouse before bringing up a problem.
Taking responsibility: Don't blame your spouse for the problem.
Sharing fondness and admiration: Express gratitude for what your spouse does right.
Stonewalling: If you need time to cool down, let your spouse know.
Self-soothing skills: Practice some relaxation techniques or deep breathing.

We hope these tips help you and your partner create a happier, healthier relationship! Remember that relationships take work, but they're worth it in the end. If you can work on implementing these antidotes, you'll be well on your way to a healthy and happy relationship! If things get tough, don't hesitate to seek out professional help. Our qualified therapists at Safe Space Therapy can provide guidance and support as you work through difficult issues together. We wish you all the best!



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