the-four-horsemanof-themarriageapocalypseIn this series, I have been introducing you to four dangerous habits or attitudes that can infect your marriage. Dr. John Gottman labels these “the four horsemen.” The first three are (click the title to read the blog post on that horseman):

  1. Criticism
  2. Contempt
  3. Defensiveness

The final horseman is…

4. Stonewalling

The long-term presence of the other three horsemen will bring the fourth horseman into the picture sooner or later. Eventually, one partner will tune out.

Stonewalling usually arrives later in a marriage, after three horseman have been galloping around the home for a while. It’s not hard to imagine. One partner feels free to criticize other’s personality or character. This eventually turns into contempt. The other partner maintains an increasingly defensive posture because continued criticism and contempt are painful to handle. Finally, one partner simply stonewalls. He or she doesn’t engage at all. Dr. Gottman writes:

During a typical conversation between two people, the listener gives all kinds of cues to the speaker that he’s paying attention. He may use eye contact, nod his head, say something like “Yeah” or “Uh-huh.” But a stonewaller doesn’t give you this sort of casual feedback. He tends to look away or down without uttering a sound. He sits like an impassive stone wall. The stonewaller acts as though he couldn’t care less about what you’re saying, if he even hears it.1

If the fourth horseman is present, it may need to be dealt with first because it is disengagement. Progress is impossible if one partner has checked out.

These four horsemen are one section in a chapter entitled, “How I Predict Divorce.” According to Dr. Gottman’s extensive research:

The presence of the four horsemen alone predicts divorce with… an 82 percent accuracy.2

82% is a scary number! The good news is that repair is possible. In Dr. Gottman’s research, 84% of couples who scored high in the four horsemen but repaired were happily married 6 years later.

In my next post, I will acquaint you with the repair and prevention of the damage the four horsemen can cause.


1Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (pp. 33-34). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

2Gottman, John; Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (p. 40). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.



If you are finding these posts helpful, consider reading the entire book from which they are drawn. Click below to go to Amazon to take a look.

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert

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