Meet therapist, coach and founder of Fundamental Health Lindsey Paoli, MFT-Intern.
Welcome back to my chat on relationships and the four most destructive acts that lead to higher rates of divorce. To recap, Dr. John Gottman’s “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse” as he calls them are: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness and Stonewalling.
Contempt is the behavior that MOST frequently leads to divorce. How do we avoid these things and work preventatively to create a healthier relationship?
Well don’t worry, Dr. Gottman has four antidotes that I’ll go over for you as well. Not in a relationship? No problem! These are great communication tips to use in the office, with family, and with friends too!
Four Antidotes to Communication Mistakes
Create a Gentle Startup
Instead of attacking how your partner does or does not do things, find ways to create conversations that are helpful by using “I statements” and identifying your feelings about what your partner has done. Instead of “You never take out the garbage, you are so lazy!” this may look like:
“I feel so frustrated and disappointed. We agree that keeping the house clean is a joint job, so when you don’t follow through on your word to take care of the garbage without prompting I feel disrespected and taken advantage of.”
Build a Culture of Appreciation
I explain this to clients as having a walking/talking gratitude practice. Though there may be things that irritate you about your partner, there are likely far more great things that you love about them. Focus on those things *out loud* and frequently and I promise, the relationship changes.
Probably the number one struggle I hear from couples is that they have gotten into a pattern of avoiding conflict all together because they fear if they say something their partner won’t like or it will get out of control. Be the partner who can accept and acknowledge that they have areas they can improve upon. None of us are perfect, and no one knows you as well as your partner. In every argument, there is something that EACH partner contributed to get them there. Start practicing identifying what YOU should do differently rather than finding every fault of your partner’s and you will both benefit, I promise.
Physiological Self- Soothing
Inevitably, every relationship gets into an argument that is so emotionally charged that the urge to shut down arises from at least one of the partners. It is okay to identify that. It is HELPFUL to identify that. If we are too emotionally charged our executive function and reasoning go out the window as our body literally prepares for fight or flight. Honor that feeling and inform your partner you need a break.
Tip: Step outside, breathe deeply, listen to music, calm your heart rate or go for a run. Whatever you need, take it. But always schedule to come back to the conversation within the next hour or two so the issue doesn’t go unresolved.
I hope you find these helpful! As a reminder, you can read more about the Dr. Gottman here. Take care of each other and yourself. I’ll be back next week with a new MINDful Minute topic.