The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Mar 12, 2013 by

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

John Gottman’s “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”*

  1.  Criticism: attacking your partner’s personality or character because you have the need to be right and making generalizations.
  2.  Contempt: attacking your partner’s sense of self and disrespecting them at an elemental level.  This is done through insults, name-calling, hostile humor or sarcasm, body language and tone of voice.
  3. Defensiveness: seeing yourself as the victim, making excuses, disagreeing and cross-complaining.  It also involves not listening to what the other person is saying and constantly repeating your “side.”
  4.  Stonewalling: withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict.  This is not taking a position of neutrality, but conveys disapproval, distance and disconnection.  It can involve silence or monosyllabic mutterings, changing the subject or removing yourself physically.


  1.  Learn to make specific complaints and requests.
  2. Conscious, mindful communication: speaking your truth and listening and accepting your partner’s truth.
  3. Validate your partner through understanding and empathy.
  4. Shift to appreciation rather than resentment and complaints.
  5. Claim responsibility.
  6. Re-write your inner script so that it reflects love and good will.



Based on “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail” by John Gottman, 1994.


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