The four horses of the divorce apocalypse, that is the tongue-in-cheek name that Dr. John Gottman PhD. gave the elements, behaviors specifically, that he discovered to be existing components in many failed marriages, what he came also to call precursors of divorce.
These precursors are difficult behaviors, which frequently manifest in marriages that are spiraling towards divorce. They behaviors are criticism, condescension, defensiveness and stonewalling.
These behaviors are not easy to root out. It’s likely they have existed for some time, before they become the igniting flame of the divorce funeral pyre. Also, they may have developed as protective mechanisms, to deal with traumatic events, or coping mechanisms, to deal with various behaviors that they find painful to live with. Whatever the reason they exist, however, the best way to fight them is with compassion.
Armed with compassion, we can stop being so critical. We can stop putting walls up, and stop planning a reaction before our loved one gets a word in edgewise. We can also develop the ability to treat each other as equals and with respect. Sometimes developing more compassion is as easy as stopping to listen, before we react, recognizing that everyone has challenges that entitle them to a difficult moment here and there.
- Compassion can help you and your partner avoid the “Four Horsemen” of contempt, criticism, defensiveness and stonewalling.
- Having compassion for yourself and your partner can help to avoid the need to make yourself feel superior to the other person, a need which feeds contempt, criticism and defensiveness.
- Compassion is something you can train yourself for through methods like loving-kindness meditation and P.R.A.I.S.E. (Pause, Reflect, Acknowledge, Ingrain, Soothe, Explore).
“While there are many elements that create a strong relationship, the most vital foundational piece that even strengthens and builds the other elements is, compassion—compassion towards others as well as towards self.”