Beauty in Battle Podcast

The Four Horsemen of Marriage

September 12, 2023 Jason Benham, Tori Benham Episode 83
The Four Horsemen of Marriage
Beauty in Battle Podcast
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Beauty in Battle Podcast
The Four Horsemen of Marriage
Sep 12, 2023 Episode 83
Jason Benham, Tori Benham

Dr. John Gottman, the foremost researcher in all things marriage, and he's discovered four characteristics evident in all marriages that fail. He calls them the "Four Horsemen" of the Apocolypse, and if these four qualities are not dealt with quickly and properly the end of the relationship is inevitable.

Fortunately, there's an antidote - four of them, to be precise. And in this episode, we're going to discuss all four. You won't want to miss this timely and valuable conversation on how to counteract the Four Horseman that can ruin your relationship.


p.s. If you haven't taken our free 5-Day Challenge you can join us HERE

Show Notes Transcript

Dr. John Gottman, the foremost researcher in all things marriage, and he's discovered four characteristics evident in all marriages that fail. He calls them the "Four Horsemen" of the Apocolypse, and if these four qualities are not dealt with quickly and properly the end of the relationship is inevitable.

Fortunately, there's an antidote - four of them, to be precise. And in this episode, we're going to discuss all four. You won't want to miss this timely and valuable conversation on how to counteract the Four Horseman that can ruin your relationship.


p.s. If you haven't taken our free 5-Day Challenge you can join us HERE

So today we're going to talk about the four horsemen of marriage. And we got this from Dr. John Gottman at the Gottman Institute, foremost, uh, research scientist. Well, I guess you'd call them scientists, psychologists on marriage, uh, over the last 50 years. And he talked about the four horsemen of what he would call the apocalypse, which is a metaphor depicting the end, the end times.

Oh, wow. So he said marriage has four characteristics. Of marriages that end that, you know, end in divorce have four characteristics and we're going to go through those today. Um. And it's going to be fun because we're not just going to leave you with the characteristics. We're also going to give you what Gottman gives, what Gottman shares as the antidotes to that to make sure that you don't suffer from the four horsemen.

We've talked about Gottman quite a bit because he and his wife are psychologists and for over 50 years have followed couples. Um, put video cameras in the house, like they go to extremes to really study the dynamics of the relationship and to get information, um, from, from that time with them. And so they definitely come out with some pretty interesting things that are really helpful to relationships.

And it's just, I mean, it's so much information to parse through. So, you know, Tori and I take it upon ourselves to find the good stuff and. Chew it up, think about it, and then give it to you. So that's what we're gonna do today. But before we do, Tori and I just got back from three days in San Francisco. It was so fun.

Oh my gosh. It was cool. We haven't posted a reel yet. Have we on? No, I need to, I need to put that together, but we, we, um, we just got back on Sunday night. Yeah. And it was so much fun. We ate a lot of good food, watched some good football and just took a lot of walks around the city. And it was, we had a great time.

We ate at a restaurant. Um, Yeah. That was the first place to ever make a Caesar salad. We ate at one of the top five steakhouses in America, and we ate at the third oldest restaurant in the country. All in San Fran. Jason and I kind of like set a goal for ourselves several months ago that we wanted to, one thing that we have in common was that we were big time foodies.

We love food. It's something we enjoy together. Um, and it's something, um, that we're always like trying to find the new, new places around town or wherever we go. Like we want to research and figure out like, what are some really special places that people are talking about? And when we were in San Francisco.

So there was so much history behind a few of the places that we visited, which Jason's big history buff. So that was fun for you. It was awesome. Um, didn't even realize how like a lot of the, their restaurants you walk along the streets and you see established in 18, you know, 56 pre civil war times. So it had a lot of history, which was really fun too.

And I tell you, you know, the best restaurant we went to though. Um, and I guess it's number one in America, the house of Nan King. And it was so funny. I'm going to take credit for that one. Yeah, Tori found it. But Tori and I sat down and this older guy comes up and he barely speaks any English, but he speaks enough to where he recognized.

You know, he understands what we're saying and we can recognize a little bit of what he's saying, but uh, we're like We don't know exactly what to order. He goes then you just trust me We're like, okay, so we did and I'm telling you what he put in front of us I've never had anything like it before in my life.

Yes. I'm a huge Asian fan I love Asian food like Jason likes steak. I like Asian, huh? And so we Just stumbled upon this place. Like I was just looking up on was it? Yeah, it was. I forget what it was. Yelp, on Yelp. I found it on Yelp. You've got to Google House of Nan King. Yeah, and apparently this guy is on the Food Network and has his own show.

He was waiting our table. And we show up and he's our waiter. He walks over and he's asking us all these questions. I'm like, Wait a minute. Who is, and I look behind him and there's a huge poster of him and he's on the food network and they're like, but he's serving our table. Yeah. Serving our table. And he says, have you ever been here before?

And we're like, no, he's like, I surprise you. We're like, okay. And he, he knew what he was doing. It was good. There's no doubt. But Tori and I had a gut ache for, cause I think I ate a little too much. It was heavy on the sauce that we weren't quite used to, but it was, Incredible. And that, you know, is our long lead in to the song that I have for you today.

Yes. And it's just kind of a fun song. It's not a love song necessarily, but you'll understand exactly why. Here is Frank Sinatra, I Left My Heart in San Francisco.

In San Francisco. Okay, he's singing way too slow for me to keep that on any longer. Come on. That's it guys. Speed it up a little bit. I Left My kind of did. Because it was an amazing trip. It's so important to get away. I think you feel every time I I get away with you I feel like It just rejuvenates me I am able to really kind of process and appreciate the things in my life because I make space for it by doing that and I just, for those of you that haven't been away for a while, if you can get just a couple days away, it really is special for your relationship and, and for your kids.

If you have kids, like it really, um, I feel like every time I do it, I'm like, okay, I'm ready. I'm ready to get back into it. Spirit of full disclosure though, when our kids were very young. It was hard to get away. I think we went a couple years without even doing one overnight. And then we got to where we would do just a little overnight in Charlotte.

So it was like 20 minute drive. Let's just go overnight there and we'll get up in the next morning and come home. And that was fun. And then there were times where we planned on an overnight, got a hotel room and we went and, you know, went out to dinner and then got back, watched a little movie or something.

And then Tori's like, do you think it'd be okay if we just slept at home? Cause I, I want to be with the kid. I'm like, come on, honey. So we'd go home. Yeah. Those early years were tough to get away. Yeah. Things are a little different now. Okay. Let's get into our topic today. The four horsemen of marriage, uh, specifically.

It's an old, it's a, actually a new Testament metaphor to the apocalypse, like what happens at the end. And when they talk about the four horsemen specifically in the Bible, it's conquest, war, hunger, and death respectively. But they use that to describe communication styles of, uh, husbands and wives that become a predictor for divorce.

And, uh, and so let me give you the four horsemen, and then we're going to talk about each one of those. And then we're gonna talk about how to overcome each one. Okay. We're going to kind of hit this a little fast. So stay with me. Okay. So here are the four horsemen. Criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling.

So criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. Criticism. Okay. This is not a good thing to do when you become overly critical of your spouse. But what criticism does is it attacks the character of the recipient. So it labels the recipient rather than the behavior. You're not sitting there talking about how you were late again.

No, no, no. It's like, you're so lazy. You're, you don't care about us. Like you're labeling. And anytime you do that, you're speaking to their identity. Yeah. And we don't have that right as believers, right. To, to put on somebody, something that God didn't say. So we have to be really, really careful that when you, when we say things to our spouse or even to our kids, that you are this, can't do that.

You don't, we really don't have that right. That's a good point. And we have always told our kids there, you know, Jake's, Jake, you know, when Lundy's or Ali's yelling, Jake is so like, Oh, what's he selfish. Yeah. I'm like, Ali, you can't say that because then you're labeling him. You can say Jake is acting selfish.

Now that's different. But Jake is so like, you can't do that. And just so many times I've heard the kids being like, they like correct themselves. They're like, Oh yeah. You're not selfish, but you're being selfish right now. Yeah, stop. So criticism attacks character, okay? Now, unchecked criticism in your mind, like if you're thinking critical thoughts of your spouse, it leads to the second.

Uh, of the four horsemen, which is contempt. Now they say contempt is the number one predictor of divorce. And the reason why is because temp contempt is a feeling of superiority towards your spouse. So criticism is thinking negatively towards your spouse, right? And it's labeling their character, but contempt then brings in the nasty element of comparison, right?

So it's not just, Hey, you're so selfish. It's you're so selfish. I'm not selfish toward you, right? Like you're so this, but I'm not now all of a sudden you added in comparison. That means you've got contempt in your heart and contempt manifests itself several different ways. Uh, sarcasm, passive aggressive, passive aggressive comments, name calling, eye rolling, that's a bad one, uh, labeling, mockery, that kind of stuff, guys, you just can't play around with that.

Especially when it comes to sarcasm, you got to be very careful. Some people call it scarcasm, right? Be very careful with that. And it just makes me think of the verse, um, in second Corinthians 10, five, that we take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ because contempt starts in your thoughts.

That's right. That's right. And so. We need to be somebody who can pause and say, Oh, wait, what am I thinking about? Let's think about what we're thinking about. I have mentioned before that, um, Joyce Meyer's Battlefield of the Mind changed my life because that one simple concept, think about what you're thinking about.

Don't just go along with your thoughts. Stop and think about what you're thinking about. And is that serving you and those you love well, or is it? Is it hurting them? And if it's hurting them, then use that scripture. You can take your thoughts captive. We have agency over our thoughts. I've told so many men that, um, Tori started thinking like a man when she read that book, battlefield of the mind, the only thing that we've got together that's that comes natural is we can compartmentalize.

And that actually is a superpower at the right time. Right. At the wrong time. It's awful. So that's contempt. It's unchecked criticism in your mind. Now, if you don't clean up your thinking, your critical thinking, and your contemptuous thinking towards your spouse, your marriage breaks. Okay. Then what happens is it leads to the third of the four horsemen, which is defensiveness.

So when somebody is being criticized or they can tell that their spouse is thinking contemptuous, then they get defensive and defensiveness is self protection through righteous indignation. It's like, no, stop coming at me like that. Right. You do this. And all of a sudden now. You are acting out defensively now defensiveness is a bad posture to be in because it puts you in the position of a victim Yes, okay, even though it's natural to defend yourself Especially if your spouse is coming at you with you statements rather than I statements and we're gonna talk about that in a minute You when you're defensive then you never can own the part of your problem that you need to own Yes, so defensiveness is bad.

Did you want to say something? Yeah, I you know I when I think about defensiveness and I've thought about this a lot because I have found myself defensive so often in with you and with the kids and When I really like ask the Lord and dig down deep like what is this? I think a lot of times for me defensiveness comes out of a lack of grace for myself because I naturally can be Can operate out of guilt a lot right and I hold on to shame and I hold on to guilt And so i'm hard on myself and so I carry the weight of i'm not doing things well, or You know, I'm really just hard on myself and when I do that and I'm subconsciously that hard on myself, I carry the weight of that and that and then when somebody else comes along and gives me some any kind of criticism at all, I can't carry the weight because I'm already carrying so much weight that I've put onto myself.

But when I can release and I say, I'm When I can release that shame and the guilt and through repentance say I'm not doing this well But I I have hope to do better because of my relationship with you Christ and I can take on your mind We have them we can have the mind of Christ I go in through abiding in him and when you live out of that place of hope that I can Overcome this I can think well I can release this I can repent and move on right then you aren't Carrying all that weight and then when somebody comes to you and says you're you know This is happening or you're you made me feel this way then you're not carrying all this baggage of your own shame You're like you then you can carry it But I think so much for me is being able to release That that I put on myself give myself more grace and Not get bogged down by the weight of my own shame and that's such the mom problem You know everything that you just said I think every mom out there is like yes Yeah, I feel that.

Well, it's like you such a thankless job. He's a thankless job. There's you're so much correcting kids. So it's just constantly they're mad at you all the time. Yeah, like there was just so many years of always feeling like I didn't do it quite right. I yelled. I lashed out. I wasn't patient. I you know, you just you always feel like I could have done that better could have done that better could have done that better than you come to me and say something and I'm like, I come try.

I know right and it I become defensive because I have not released. It's like, no, I'm doing, I'm doing the best I can. I need to have more grace with myself. And then I can shift into a mindset of being able to receive from you some correction and, and allowing you to come inside. You're the solver, right?

You have that instinct in you. You have an ability to be able to help me, but if I'm just constantly defensive, it doesn't do us anyone, anyone good. That's such a good insight. And two, I just think that, you know, for the spouse. Who is seeing defensive behavior in your spouse, it may or may not be because of you, but in that moment, just stop whatever it is that you're whatever point you're trying to make, whatever it is, stop and then you guys get to the root of why that reaction would be coming.

So you've got criticism and you've got contempt. So unchecked criticism leads to contempt and that contemptuous thinking and feeling towards your spouse could lead to them becoming defensive. And if it doesn't stop, Ultimately it moves from defensiveness to the fourth. Four horsemen, which is stonewalling.

This is the dangerous part. This is full withdrawal. Yeah, I think everybody has probably seen a couple like this, you know, where it, uh, Saturday night live, they do skits where, you know, Chris Farley was the woman and, and Adam Sandler was the husband and, and the husband is sitting there. Talking to his wife and excuse me the other way around Chris Farley as the woman is trying to talk to Adam Sandler the husband and and he's like in Adam Sandler as the husband's like day and night she talks each word more useless than the next like give me cancer now God.

So funny, but it's showing something in a humorous way that actually really happens to couples, especially as they get older, where the husband specifically will just shut down. And sometimes I've even seen it in the reverse where the woman just shuts down and she stonewalls that's full withdrawal. So if, if the first three, first three horsemen aren't dealt with, stonewalling is the most dangerous of all, even though the couple may stay together.

They don't love each other. They don't like each other. There's no more fight in you. You just completely give up and this is where the person in the stonewalling stage feels flooded. Yeah. To where they're so flooded in that moment. Where they just shut down. No more talking. No more anything. I just need to retreat.

Right. And, uh, the opposite of love is not hate. It's indifference. Mm. And what stonewalling leads to is indifference toward your spouse. Yeah. Yeah. And when, when we're under threat, we as humans will respond in one of three ways, fight, flight, or freeze. Right. We hear this all the time. And so defensiveness is that fight response.

Right. Like I've got to fight for what I need you to understand and I need, I need to be understood here. Right. Yep. And Then stonewalling is that flight like I got to get away from this and then you disassociate from reality because it's just too much Yeah, you're just too overwhelmed And this is when you just withdraw because it's just easier that way.

Yeah, but ultimately It's not easier that way. It's not. So that's the four horsemen criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling. So now real quick for the next five minutes tour, let's talk about the antidotes and these are antidotes that John Gottman gave, and we'll just talk through real quick. So for criticism.

For criticism, if criticism is something that you're struggling with, or your spouse is struggling with, his antidote is use a gentle or a soft startup. And what they mean by that is a complaint focuses on specific behavior, but criticism attacks a person's character. So, the antidote for criticism is to start with an I statement rather than a you statement.

Yeah. That's a softer way to approach the situation. Yeah, that's so good. It's a gentle startup. It's like a you statement indicates blame. Yeah. So here, here's an I statement. I feel undervalued when you come home late. Later than you told me, and you don't call and give me a heads up. I know you don't mean it, but I'd really like you to be home when you say you'll be home.

Rather than, you're always late, you're so selfish, you never call. You don't care. See, if you start with you's, it puts the person defensive. But if you start with an I, I feel, now that's a softer startup. And by saying I feel, you're taking some responsibility, right? Yeah, and now that's, that you're jumping ahead there because that's really good.

That taking responsibility is the antidote for defensiveness. So, she's exactly right. It does take responsibility. You'll see that all of these go hand in hand together. And there's two things that you need to formulate your startup. Here you go. What do I feel, and what do I need? What are you feeling in that moment, and what do you need?

Now go at it from that perspective, rather than, What did your spouse do that ticked you off? Tell them. No. What is it that you feel in that moment? What do you need? So that's criticism. The antidote for condemned. Is remember contempt is feeling superior to your spouse. It's unchecked criticism that brings in the element of comparison.

How do you counteract that? You build a culture of appreciation and respect. That's good. So if you regularly, regularly Um, express appreciation, gratitude, affection, and respect for your partner. What's going to happen is you're going to create a positive perspective in your relationship that acts as a buffer for negative feelings.

So the more positive you feel, the less likely you're going to feel contempt. Yeah, exactly. And our book, we call it. Everybody needs a little RPA in their relationship, radical proactive appreciation. Yeah, it's so good. And it's, you know, we, we talk about how in our relationships before we get married, we just naturally, you know, are thinking in terms of, of positive, you know, of the positive, like what I, what you do and, um, what you, the way that you make me feel.

I just appreciate it. I feel cherished. I feel loved. Right. We just. Are naturally kind of in this mindset of of looking for the good we're like trying to find the good because it feels really good um in in a relationship to have those positive interactions and then life hits And somehow we get away from that and we get into these ruts of thinking so negatively about each other Yeah, and and we have to be proactive to putting to bringing it back.

We have to proactively Think good thoughts. Yeah. We, we always, when the kids were little, we're like, let's, let's say nice things. Yeah. Right? Yeah. Like, let's take some time to, to say some nice things. And Jake always, he loved it. He's a words of affirmation kid. So he, he was always, Hey guys, can we say some nice things?

you know, when things got kind of tense in the house, it's like, Hey guys, can we think? And I always think about that, and now I'm like, I need to think nice things. Yeah. Right. Because you say nice things because you think nice things. It has to start in your mind. Yeah. And so you. If, if you are, find yourselves being contemptuous towards each other, then what are you thinking during the day?

And this is why we talk about how music is so helpful, like turn on some music. That's going to help assist your thinking, like help, you know, sometimes we need some outside help. Good point. Yeah. And, and, and to with contempt, it's, it's you, you, it's not just your thinking. It's the comparison that's going on in your thinking.

So refuse to compare, right? And one of the best pieces of advice we ever got from Dr. Emerson Egeritz and his wife, Sarah, who wrote the book, uh, Love and Respect. He said, the best thing that you can do other than thinking. You know, proactive, you know, gratitude thoughts towards your spouse is to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Assume goodwill is the way he puts it. Assume goodwill. Like they, okay. So yeah, I know what they just said. I know what they just did. They really didn't mean it. Assume that they didn't mean it. Yeah. And it helps a lot. Okay. Now that's criticism, contempt. That's how you overcome those defensiveness. So, if your spouse is coming at you and they're using you statements.

Understand what I just said. Your spouse doesn't really mean that. Okay, let's assume that. Um, your responsibility and the antidote to defensiveness is to take responsibility. That's what Tori just said. Taking responsibility because if Tori says, you're late, you're always late, you're so lazy or whatever.

Now that's going to hurt big time for me. And it's going to cause me to want to be defensive. But if in that moment I stop and go, you know what, she's hurting. I know you're right. I'm sorry. I did it again. I'm going to do something like all of a sudden I'm now taking responsibility. Then it breaks down defensiveness in me and it breaks down defensiveness in her.

So a lot of people get really defensive when they're criticized, but being defensive never helps solve the problem at hand. So, it's really, honestly, being defensive is a way of blaming your partner. You're saying that the problem's with them, not you. So, as a result, the problem's not resolved. Right. Okay, so, modern psychiatry calls the people who refuse to take responsibility, they say that those people have a character disorder.

So, owning your slice of the pie, no matter how difficult it may be in that moment, if you don't own any slice of the pie, you will never have... Managed and resolved conflict. Hmm. You have to own it. It even if it's just 1%. Yeah. You gotta own your part. It's so good. And that's the antidote to defensiveness.

Yeah. And I, you know, just going back to what I was talking about earlier about defensiveness is, you know, I think that when we don't realize what Christ did for us at the cross, we carry our own shame and we, when we don't release that to the Lord, it makes us a defensive people because we can't possibly carry the shame, like that's what he did for us.

And I think that if you find yourself a very defensive person, then maybe you need. To really, you know, look internally and say, am I releasing my shame? Have I, if I've repented of something, I, I am released of it. Yeah, it no longer has a hold of me. And I think that, um, oftentimes we're most offensive is when we really don't understand the gospel.

We really don't understand that what Jesus did for us on the cross released us. Yeah, of the shame and the guilt and we, we walk in freedom and when we, but when we carry around so much shame, we cannot bear any criticism. We're, we're, we're, we're already caring. That's a really good point. Wow. Yeah. I didn't even think about it that direction, but it is so true.

That, that, you know, that, that easily can create defensiveness. Now, the last one, stonewalling, um, the antidote to stonewalling, how to get past that is learning how to self soothe. Yeah. This is so important because stonewalling is when someone completely withdraws from a conflict and discussion, no longer responds to their partner, usually happens when you're feeling flooded or emotionally overwhelmed.

So your reaction is to shut down, stop talking, disengage. Um, but when cause, um, but when couples stonewall, um, oftentimes it's a result of being under so much emotional pressure, then it increases the heart rate, releases stress hormones of the bloodstream, can even trigger the fight or flight response, as Tori said earlier.

Um, and they did a study in one of Gottman's longitudinal, longitudinal research studies. What they did was they got couples to talk about something that was a heated topic for them. They'd start to get into an argument and after 15 minutes of an argument, they would interrupt them and say, Hey, we need to adjust the equipment, like the cameras and the, and the microphones.

And they said, now during this time, don't talk about the issue at all. We can't talk about it until we get back on camera. And they paused for 15 minutes. Um, and so when the couple started talking again. Uh, their heart rates were significantly lower and their interaction was more positive and productive.

And what they learned from that was, during that, it was, they stopped it for about 20 to 30 minutes. During that half hour, each partner, without knowing it, was self soothing. By reading a magazine, by just sitting there thinking, some of them listened to music. They calmed themselves down and when they felt calm, They were able to return to the discussion in a respectful and rational way.

Wow, that's really good. So the antidote to stonewalling is to practice physiological, psychological, emotional, relational, spiritual, self soothing. Right. That's where worship comes in, right? That's where meditation comes in and spending time alone with the Lord comes in. Yeah, and it's the answer. God is the answer to all of this.

So good. I think sometimes we are just so afraid of the feelings. That we have in relationships through conflict. I know for me, you know, I, I tend to be a withdrawer and it's because I fear the conflict and what I really fear is the disconnection. But it's funny because the very thing that I do, which is withdraw or stonewall, right?

Yep. It keeps me from connection. The very thing that my body, my soul, my mind, everything wants and longs for, I'm keeping myself from. because of the stonewalling. That's a good point. But when you really ask the question, what you really want, you self soothe and you get yourself breathing under control and you, you say, I'm okay and I can deal with this and I'm not afraid of the feelings that are going to come with conflict.

I'm not, I'm not going to fear. I'm not going to be led by fear. I'm going to be led by love. Then you come back and you're able to deal with the issue. Um, but it's just, it's, yeah. It has to be that intentional and in that mindset of what am I coming back to? I'm coming back, um, to love. I'm not going to be up.

I'm not operating out of fear. I'm going to operate out of love, take a minute, and then let's come back to this and deal with it. I love that. Well, there you go. There's our four horsemen. Criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling, and the antidotes. Antidote to criticism, use of stuff, start up, start with I statements, not you, contempt, build a culture of appreciation and respect, defensiveness, take responsibility, and then finally stonewalling, learn how to self soothe.

Thank you Dr. John Gottman for sharing that, and we had a good time digesting it with you guys on the podcast. Yes, so fun. Um, we were out of town. Um, ate some really good food out. Go eat. That's true. Go out to eat guys. Yeah. You guys go out to eat and then you need to post yourself a break. You need to post our little video.

Yes, I will. San Francisco. All right, gang. Hey, really fun hanging out with you guys. And, uh, if you haven't taken our free marriage challenge, five day challenge, take it, go to beauty and battle. com, follow us on socials and, uh, don't forget to rate, review, subscribe. We'll see you guys next week. See you guys.