Most of us are familiar with the term, "the 4 horseman of the apocalypse" which is taken from the sixth chapter of the Book of Revelation. It refers to a team of evil doers who systematically bring war, famine, pestilence, and death to the earth. Though interpretations vary, it is obvious that these horsemen represent four destructive forces. Interestingly enough, according to family researcher, John Gottman, there are also four horsemen (sources of negativity) that tend to destroy marriages....
Gottman identifies the Four Forces of Marital Apocalypse:
1. Criticism: Gottman says, "A complaint only addresses the specific action at which your spouse failed." An example would be, "I'm disappointed that you failed to get the oil changed in the car as we had discussed." A criticism, however, goes a step further and adds negative words about one's personality: "It is obvious to me that you are either lazy or you simply don't care." These words go beyond identifying an issue to making an attack that can wound one's spirit!
2. Contempt: "sarcasm and cynicism are types of contempt. So are name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. In whatever form, contempt - the worst of the four horsemen- is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust." As one might expect, words spoken with contempt usually lead to ever increasing levels of conflict..
3. Defensiveness: this is harmful because "defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You're saying in effect, 'the problem isn't me, it's you." Defensive statements will usually invite additional accusations from one's spouse.
4. Stonewalling: Stonewalling is a type of disengagement. It usually shows up later in marriage and is evidenced by an ongoing pattern of avoidance.
The good news, as is true in the Book of Revelation, is that there is hope for victory over these four negative horseman. But it would not be my recommendation simply to wait for Christ to return. If you are aware that one, or more, of these four horsemen have taken up residence in your home; I would suggest that it is time to seek professional help. Left to their own devices, these four horsemen will seek to destroy your marriage. But remember, we have been "born again to a Living Hope" and that hope is available to each of us today.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.