According to Dr. John Gottman, founder of the Relationship Institute, what makes or break a relationship is not conflict itself but how conflict is handled. By studying married couples over several decades, Dr. Gottman concluded that there are four types of behaviors that will kill any relationship. He calls them, “The Four Horsemen of Relationship Apocalypse.”
Each time we find ourselves generalizing and saying to our partners that they “always” or “never” do something, we are criticizing them. The same goes for each time we tell them what they “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing. Instead, focus on the actual behavior and how it makes you feel. For example, “When you arrived late for dinner, I felt angry.”
When our partner suggests we’ve done something wrong, the natural instinct is to become defensive. In an attempt to avoid taking responsibility for our behaviors, we say “It’s not my fault” and find someone or something else to blame. The next time you are called out on a mistake you made, take responsibility, apologize if necessary, and ask what you could do to fix it.
Calling our partner names, being sarcastic or rolling our eyes at them, are all signs that we’re acting with contempt. Contempt shows up each time we see ourselves as superior or better than others and act as if the other person is not worthy of respect. Instead, look within yourself for the real cause of your anger and discontent. Then, find something to appreciate about your partner.
When we give our partner the silent treatment, ignore them, don’t respond to their messages or stop relating to them, we are stonewalling. This usually happens when we’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed and don’t know how to respond. Instead of doing this, let your partner know that you need time to process your thoughts and feelings and that you’ll re-connect when you’re feeling calmer.
As a Heart Intelligence Coach, I believe these 4 relationship killers are behaviors we all experience when we are operating from a place of fear. They are a natural expression of the freeze-fight-flight response which often causes relationships to break down over time.
I also believe that the most effective way to avoid these negative behaviors is by having a daily practice to help us move from fear into love. A practice that helps us feel more connected to ourselves, our Divinity and others. A practice that helps us relate to others from compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and love.
This is what Living the 12 Virtues of the Heart is all about. Because the power that makes and keeps your relationships going lives in your heart.
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From my heart to yours.
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