Written by: Seada
One of the saddest reasons a relationship dies is that we lose sight of the value of our partner. By the time you recognize the value of the other, chances are it will be too late. Too often, a good relationship is taken for granted because nurturance and respect are in doubt. A good relationship does not erode overnight. Instead, a compilation of problems destroys the foundations of trust, love, and friendship over time. Criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and contempt are the makeup of the sulphuric acid of love.
The goal is to limit the use of these behaviors and use their antidotes.
- The antidote for criticism is to complain without blame.
— Example of criticism: “Why do you never help me? I am always alone with the kids. You just don’t care. You are lazy and selfish.”
— Instead: “I need you to help me put the kids to bed. I understand that it’s harder for you to put them to bed because they are more used to me, but I’d love to figure out a good plan of action so we are both successful parents.”
— What to look for: “I feel…” and “I need…” and “I understand…” statements.
- The antidote for defensiveness is accepting responsibility.
— Example of defensiveness: “You always blame me. What good are you? I don’t see you doing much of the house work.” Do you see the action of self-responsibility in the sentence? Or do you notice a compilation of guilt, hurt and resentment?
— Instead: “You are right. My hectic work schedule has exhausted my efforts to be available for you at home. I see you’re drained and need a break. Tomorrow I will mow the lawn and finish the garage work. Thank you for being patient with me.”
— What to look for: postpone your own agenda and focus on the present moment (what is actually being said vs. what you interpret from what they said)
- The antidote for stonewalling is physiological self-soothing.
— Example of stonewalling: playing dead, literally. Completely ignoring your partner’s concerns. This is an act of selfishness. In a relationship, there is no “I,” only “us.” I cannot stress the importance of understanding that a relationship cannot function without both partners working together. Fact: 85% of stonewalling is done by men. Many men think, “If she continues talking, she will eventually burn herself out.” Meanwhile, she’s thinking, “If I tell him just one more time to take out the trash, maybe he will get it.”
— What to look out for: neither person (in this particular situation) understands what the other needs.
- The antidote for contempt is to build a culture of appreciation.
— Example of contempt: Eye rolling, sarcasm, mockery, and hostile humor. All examples of contempt are bluntly Disrespectful, with a capital D! The challenge with contempt is that it can become a habit; you need to divorce it.
— What to look out for: build language skills. Transition from a place of superiority and disrespect to building a culture of respect and appreciation.
I am hyper-sensitive to the challenge of implementing the antidotes above, because for most of us, criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness are all we have known. This is why I provided alternative scenarios to create a new vision to effectively resolve problems. Preserving and strengthening your friendship with your significant other will pay off in the long-haul. A lasting relationship strengthens the immune system, prevents heart ache, and leads to happiness and emotional healing.
Click on the following link to see real life examples of the four horsemen of the apocalypse by Dr. John Gottman