John Gottman is quite brilliant when it comes to romantic love. His four horsemen of the apocalypse are, he says, pretty excellent predictors as to whether or not a relationship will be unhappy and/or fail.
The four horsemen are:
- Criticism versus Complaint: A criticism attacks character whereas a complaint narrows in on a specific failure. A criticism would be “you’re not nice” whereas a complaint would be “that thing you just said was not nice.”
- Contempt: Sarcasm, name-calling, condescension, things that make you feel like your partner doesn’t take you seriously.
- Defensiveness: Bringing the entire argument back to something that happened a while ago, or not taking your part of the blame. “Well I didn’t ____!” “Well you ______!”
- Stonewalling: Tuning out, disengaging from the conversation, not being an active participant in the conversation. Getting up and leaving, purposefully not listening. You know stonewalling, chances are you’ve done it or someone has done it to you.
The four horsemen happen in relationships. These aren’t uncommon behaviors. But they should not dominate your relationship or be the primary way in which you communicate with your partner.
This video with John Gottman is the most concise advice I’ve seen for the behaviors that can make a relationship last. Be gentle, kind, affectionate, have a sense of humor, be considerate, be friends. Make romance/passion and great sex a priority. Make having fun a priority. Listen to the whole thing and see what you can pick up, and then throw that in contrast with the horsemen.