The Four Horsemen Of A Relationship’s Apocalypse, According To Psychology

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While relationships don’t work out for a wide variety of reasons, a psychologist known as John Gottman narrowed it down to four overarching reasons. That means that no matter the small reasons, they usually fall into one of these four categories.

These reasons aren’t overtly destructive on their own, but overtime, the behaviors gradually lead to disconnection. That’s because these categories don’t include big betrayals like cheating but show how easy for a relationship to fail if we don’t pay attention to these four horsemen.

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We Need Relationships For Our Wellbeing

We would have no idea who we are if it weren’t for our relationships. Believe it or not, people aren’t meant to be alone. We form meaning through our relationships with ourselves, others, and the world. Relationships push us to confront our shadows, figure out our needs, develop our personalities and ultimately find our happiness.

Katie Salerno / Pexels
Katie Salerno / Pexels

That’s psychologist Erik Erikson identified the ability to form intimate relationships as the pivotal task of young adulthood. However, having relationships isn’t the same thing as having healthy intimate relationships that are needed for social support, emotional and physical well-being, emotional regulation, and even positive health outcomes.

The Four Horsemen Of The (Relationship) Apocalypse

Just like relationships have benefits, relationships can also destroy us. If we have bad experiences early on, we risk getting stuck in a cycle where we don’t know how to break out of the behaviors that create bad relationships. Often these behaviors aren’t obvious, yet they take a toll on intimacy.

Cottonbro studio / Pexels
Cottonbro studio / Pexels

Chronic gradual small things may go noticed but destroy a relationship. Luckily these patterns were discovered by John Gottman and named the Four Horsemen of the (Relationship) Apocalypse. On a large scale, they fall into four categories: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.

Here’s how they can present themselves as subtle and even unconscious relationships behavior that, over time reduce intimacy, increase distress and create feelings of isolation.

Witholding Expressing Your Need

You may think you’re choosing your battles or protecting your partner’s feelings but not expressing your needs is one of the most harmful things you can do in a relationship. By withholding your needs, you will grow resentful over time. The relationship will become unbalanced, and the issues will bottle up till you eventually explode.

Ba Tik / Pexels
Ba Tik / Pexels

It can be scary to confront someone you love, but rest assured that if they are as considerate of you as you’re trying to be of them, they will care about how what you need to be happy top. How your needs make them feel isn’t your burden. You’re both entitled to have them, and the right person will reciprocate them. The longer your needs aren’t met, the more of an emotional distance it will create between you.,

Apologies That Aren’t Genuine

Apologizing isn’t the same thing as genuinely being sorry. A genuine apology means that change will take place. it’s a promise to learn and not repeat the same upsetting behavior. It can be difficult to apologize and admit we’re in the wrong. It’s even considered an acquired skills, especially for adults who grew up in homes where apologies weren’t common.

Cottonbro studio / Pexels
Cottonbro studio / Pexels

We’re human, and we all make mistakes, all that matters is that we take accountability for our parts in them. Many couples refuse to apologize on the basis of not having had bad intentions. However, apologies should be based on the impact of someone’s actions despite their intentions. Withholding apologies will break the trust and the integrity of the relationship

On the flip side, it’s just as important to forgive and move on following a genuine apology.

Shiting Blame

Shifting blame is actually hard to recognize as it’s essentially a manipulation tactic, even if not done on purpose. Often we shift blame as a defense mechanism. But if you’re saying things like: “I don’t know why this bothers you,” or “you’re overreacting,” then you’re guilty of making someone feel bad for their feelings instead of taking responsibility for how you made them feel.

Rodolpho Zanardo / Pexels
Rodolpho Zanardo / Pexels

People are entitled to their feelings, and while you’re not responsible for them, you shouldn’t blame them for them either. The more blame is shifted, the harder it is to work through an issue and move past it. It tends to blow out of proportion and worsen the fighting. It’s also isolating for the person who is trying to express their feelings and needs only to be told that they’re not valid., This will discourage them from approaching you to talk through issues in a mature way in the future and will lead to the end of the relationship eventually.

Feelings Of Rejection

Failing to recognize and reciprocate bids for connection is also a way to destroy a relationship. If one partner longs for the other’s affection and tries to make advances only to get rejected, it will eventually take a toll on their self-esteem and view of the relationship. It can be diminishing, especially if they don’t explain why.

Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels
Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels

There should be effort dedicated to spending quality time together and being physically affectionate towards one another. A loss of a physical bond can destroy the emotional bond.

Why Intimacy Matters

Intimacy comes in all sorts of forms. It can be a hug, a kiss, cuddling, or simply spending time together. A lack of it can come off as disinterest and undermine the relationship. Failing to respond to intimacy prevents partners from feeling connected and moving the relationship forward.

woman-smiling laying on top of smiling men both in black shirts on bed
Pixabay / Pexels
Pixabay / Pexels

It’s also because intimacy creates positive attachments between a couple through the release of a chemical known as, oxytocin, the connection or cuddle hormone. Oxytocin isn’t only good for the relationship but for individual well-being as well, for example, it can lower the effects of PTSD after a traumatic accident.

Love Is All Chemicals

If you break it down, love is basically science. You can regulate and improve a connection by allowing for the right chemicals to be released. For example, by spending time together intimately you can release oxytocin.

Los Muertos Crew / Pexels
Los Muertos Crew / Pexels

This hormone is mostly produced when we feel connected to each, and it appears to literally physically heal us from within. This is only one of the chemicals released in love. Dopamine and serotin are also released when we feel heard, loved, and cared for by expressing our needs, apologizing when necessary, taking accountability and reciprocating.

In any relationship, always look at how you feel and ask yourself: does this person make you love yourself more? Do you want to grow old with them?

Love is more than just kisses and butterflies, it’s much more than that. If you want to know more on what your birth chart reveals about how you love and what you need out of a partner, check out this personalized report based on your date of birth.

Aria Misty

Aria Misty is a recent university grad. She did her undergrad in media, information & technoculture with a Master in Journalism & Communications in 2018.

Aria has a particular interest in all things astrology and spirituality. This is driven by her desire to create healing. In fact, Aria went back to school for A master’s in counseling p[…]