Often those who are closest to us make us upset. They make and break promises, or they act as if our interests and needs don’t matter. We all want to feel validated in relationships. Especially in the most intimate and close ones. But somehow those 4 deadly horses of the apocalypse come in. John Gottman coined this phrase as he described the breakdown of relationships.
Often those who are closest to us make us upset.
The four horses are criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling. While most relationships will have some of these, healthy relationships don’t use them nearly as often and do more to repair them when they are used.
So what do you do if these are becoming the norm in your relationship and instead of respect you feel contempt or the compulsion to be critical. Or instead of trusting, you feel attacked and become defensive, and over time you begin to stonewall—just stop all communication since it always ends up in a negative spiral.
Can one person alone come out of these traps, or does it really take two? For example, you could decide to be the bigger person and offer praise, trust, honor, respect and good communication to your spouse. Would that turn things around? Sometimes it’s a powerful game changer. Other times you still find that your partner is doing the same things that cause the pain, the loss of respect, the reason for the mistrust is still happening, and the behavior of this precious person in your life is ripping you apart.
Can one person alone come out of these traps,
or does it really take two?
Let’s take an extreme case: Dr. Caroline Leaf writes in her book on brain health that she came to a place where she had to leave her husband. He was an alcoholic. He insisted on driving them home from a party drunk. Her children were in the car. Everyone was endangered by his wrong choices. That night she made her decision. She was going to leave him. She loved him and thought he was a wonderful man when he wasn’t drinking. He was also a great father to their four children. So inside, she felt she was dying as she made her decision to leave. She started to pack and then wrote a note to her husband. It was simple. “I am leaving you because I can’t live this way anymore. As long as you drink, you endanger all of us.”
He read that note before she left and saw her resolve was grounded in reality. He had to quit. That same day, before the car was packed with suitcases, he made a promise to her. He then threw out every bottle of alcohol they had in the house. It all went down the drain. He had such a dramatic turn around that on top of this, he surrounded himself with Scriptures. He pasted them everywhere around his office and common spaces. He proved to be the man she had married as he reformed too. He became her coleader in ministry.
Now this is a dramatic, clear-cut case of turning things around and becoming a team again. Yet not every relationship takes this course. What about those who you live with who give an indication of reform and hide the fact that they are not really changing? There are secret sins, or hang ups and habits that are not improving and making a real turnabout. It could be a situation of spending, or clutter, or wasting of time over trivial things instead of getting chores done. These little things add up like a leaky faucet. Drip, drip, drip . . . and then suddenly you want to explode. “Let’s fix this now!”
These little things add up like a leaky faucet. Drip, drip, drip . . . and then suddenly you want to explode. “Let’s fix this now!”
How can a marriage that has these little foxes that have spoiled the vines be revived to a new and better relationship? No one wants to be miserable. No one chooses to marry and be unhappy ever after. It’s too important to a whole state of wellness to ever imagine that you would have a home filled with strife or these four horsemen. It’s an ugly issue that must be faced before it can be healed.
Jesus rarely made divorce the answer to this problem. So, what are the answers and what kind of workshop will help us to find that place of love and happiness in our homes once again?
Jesus rarely made divorce the answer to this problem.
So, what are the answers and what kind of workshop will help us to find that place of love and happiness in our homes once again?
I look forward to the Try This at Home workshop Jennifer Schwirzer is putting together with Pastor David Asscherick. Look forward to this workshop, especially designed to improve marriages, coming out in the fall of 2022.