4 Behaviors to Avoid In Your Relationship

Written by Eric C., MA., PhD Candidate

Audio version available | Click here

“When she asked him whether it was true that love conquered all, as the songs said. ‘It is true’, he replied, ‘but you would do well not to believe it.” ~Gabriel Garcia Marquez

We would all like to believe that when we fall in love it will be forever. The truth is, love is a complicated and fluctuating emotion. It is not a super hero power that will conquer all of life’s problems. One has to treat love with respect and nourish it. By pruning the bad behaviors we can allow love to blossom and flourish. I wrote this post because I believe it is important for all of us to identify the behaviors that are deadly for our relationships.

Dr. John Gottman is a therapist who in 2007 was recognized as one of the most influential therapists of the past 25 years. He is a Professor Emeritus in Psychology who specializes in marital stability and relationship analysis. Based on several studies he conducted over the last 40 years he came up with 4 negative behaviors that can predict divorce if they are not corrected. Dr. Gottman refers to these harmful behaviors as the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These 4 behaviors can and will slowly destroy your relationship. Daily verbal and non-verbal behaviors will erode the love that is sustaining the relationship until finally there is nothing left.

Here are the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse

1. Criticism
“What is wrong with you? Can’t you do anything right!? ~Unknown

Complaints are a natural and normal part of healthy relationships. One should be able to discuss a specific complaint with their partner and reach some sort of agreement. The type of criticism that is toxic and deadly to a relationship is when one person attacks the person’s character of the other instead of the behavior. This type of criticism will only add fuel to the argument because the person being attacked will more than likely attack back.

2. Defensiveness
“The problem is not me, but you for always bringing up this issue.” ~Unknown

Defensiveness naturally occurs when a person feels they are being attacked. It is toxic in a relationship because instead of taking responsibility for the problem the person wards off the perceived attack by blaming the other person. The person will assume no responsibility for the problem even if they are obviously at fault. They will deflect by blaming the other party.

3. Contempt
“Ok genius, the word is many… not much.” (correcting grammar during an argument in a mocking tone) ~Unknown

According to Gottman, this is the worst of the 4 Horseman. He has referred to it as “sulphuric acid for love.” Contempt in a marriage is the best predictor of divorce. A couple needs respect in the relationship in order for the relationship to thrive. Contempt is disrespectful and deadly for a relationship. The contemptuous person acts superior and may show their contempt by name calling, eye rolling, mocking or hostile humor.  Furthermore, Gottman points out that contempt in a relationship is so destructive it can serve as a predictor of how many infectious illnesses a person will have in the next 4 years. Studies have shown that contempt diminishes the immune system and can cause physical manifestations in the body.

4. Stonewalling
Stonewalling is a communicative shutdown. After the criticism, a person may refuse to engage. They are simply tuning out and building an imaginary wall around them during an argument. They will refuse to participate in the discussion in any way. They will not respond verbally or give any physical cues to acknowledge the argument. Many times the stonewaller will leave the argument without saying anything. Stonewalling can become a habit and a way to avoid all arguments.

This article is not meant to diagnose or to be a guide for self-diagnoses. The sole purpose of this article is strictly for educational purposes. If this sounds like you or someone you know please seek the help of a mental health professional.

If you found this post to be helpful or interesting please remember to like, comment and share!


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44 responses to 4 Behaviors to Avoid In Your Relationship

  1. Singledust says:

    #3 – Contempt seems like a really harsh and mean word and when it reaches a stage where one feels this is how they are being treated it destroys so much of their own personality and now I read with keen interest may even result in physical manifestation, thinking back I believe I have seen such an occurrence but never made the connection. This was very educational – thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      Hi Singledust, according to Gottman contempt is the worst behavior to have in a marriage and I personally believe this is true. The correlation between contempt and illness does make sense since contempt is so toxic. I am so glad you liked this post and thank you for your comment. I remember you from the early days of the blog and I do appreciate all of your feedback✨ I hope to hear from you again soon!

      Liked by 3 people

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      Thank you! I love the blogosphere and plan to be active as long as time permits ✨ thank you for your comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. This is one informative post. I never realized the extent of harm these four things can do! Although it’s advisable to avoid these nature traits in any relationship but yes it can certainly damage a marriage. Thanks for the post Eric.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      Hi , indeed the 4 horsemen are deadly. Contempt is the most harmful of all and it can lead to illness. Best to avoid all 4 if possible. Thank you so much for your comment and have a wonderful day✨

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Nikki says:

    Oh! This is so good. I’ve seen this in a marriage all of my life and now it is presenting more problems from the party who received the criticism, defensiveness and contempt. The receiver is now stonewalling and well, I understand, but it’s to their detriment at times. Because the one who did all of this is trying to help the person, care for the person, and the person has a wall and is uncomfortable with receiving help from that person. Granted the person still does some of the first three. It’s a big vicious cycle. Sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      Hi Nikki, indeed it is a vicious cycle that may be broken with awareness. I am glad you liked the post and thank you so much for your comment✨

      Liked by 2 people

  4. lifeofanno says:

    Thanks very much for this enlightening information. Personally, #4 – Stonewalling has been my issue for a long time, to be honest. Mostly do it with a smile so I don’t come across as hostile..lol. 😊
    I smile, nod and leave when they’re done….the problem persists. It brings to reason, peaceful verbal discourse is the better route to resolving misunderstanding, right?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. braddahr says:

    Gottman is brilliant. I want to take his course at some point, preferably in someplace warm near the ocean (now taking donations ha ha).
    What you are saying in the comments about contempt is right on point. Are you aware that when Jesus was expanding on the commandments, he revealed that contempt is actually murdering someone in our hearts (Matthew 5:21-22).

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Excellent and very assertive!
    Thanks for your constant contribution to the mental health field, is so necessary. Hope you abundance and a sucessful career with accomplisment of your goals.
    Namaste 🙏🏻

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Clicking for Cash from Home says:

    Very good points. I know before my spiritual awakening I was a needy, desperate, and insecure person who attracted men with all the aforementioned attributes. I was miserable plus all my relationships ended up in the toilet. After my spiritual awakening, God and his spiritual team helped me heal my negative behaviors and now I don’t feel lonely because I love and like who I am. As a result the insecure, controlling, abusive and narcissist men, which is about 95% of the men out there, are no longer interested in me and stay away. Amen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      Hi, I am only listing the 4 behaviors that Dr. Gottman refers to as the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I believe Apathy would fall under the 6 items that predict divorce. The 4 horsemen are just one of these items.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. ladyinthemountains says:

    Another accurate article. There was so much contempt in my marriage. The disrespect I felt every time I saw the eye roll was enormous. Obviously, we ended up divorced and I am so much happier now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      Of course and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being single! These 4 negative behaviors pertain to couples✨

      Liked by 1 person

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      Hi Charlene thank you for your comment and I hope this post helps ✨have a great day

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I think a predictor of divorce is when someone spends more than a certain percentage of their relationship interaction complaining – whether it’s about the person or their behaviour. Say, more than about one tenth of the time. To me, complaining about me, or complaining about my behaviour, arouses the same feelings of defensiveness and annoyance. I can cope with it and be an adult -but only if it’s fairly infrequent.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Gottman is who my marriage counselor is using for my relationship. I think he is extremely insightful. I think any and all couples could benefit from listening to what he has to say and incorporating the practices. Especially the turn towards and bidding for. They help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • MakeItUltra™ says:

      I am glad you liked it! Thank you so much for your comment ✨


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