Relationship Minute: Four Horsemen Bingo

Identifying the Four Horsemen (Contempt, Criticism, Defensiveness, Stonewalling) takes time and, while there’s no shame in having a reference, it can be tricky to spot them in yourself or someone you interact with regularly.

Instead, you can practice looking for them in people (or characters) you only see semi-regularly from a distance. Watch for the Four Horsemen on TV or in movies. Reality TV is great for this, but scripted scenes work, too.

The famous “we were on a break” scene from Friends hits three out of Four Horsemen—can you spot them?

For a nice example of stonewalling, look no further than this scene from Fargo (contains strong language).

What can you identify? Learning to recognize these warning signs externally will make it easier to keep tabs on them when they come up in your own relationship.

Related blog posts:

The Relationship Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 11 June 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

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Relationship Minute: A beautiful friendship

Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. In fact, as Certified Gottman Therapist Cheryl Fraser puts it, a romantic relationship is really just “friendship plus nudity.”

And even though many people will say “I married my best friend,” it’s hard to think about what that looks like in practice.

What does friendship look like to you? How do you choose the people you stay friends with and how do you treat them?

Do the rules you apply to your friends also apply to your partner? For example, you might have a friend who is consistently 15 minutes late any time you get together and that’s “just the way they are.” Do you treat or regard their tardiness differently than your partner’s?

Friendships are a vital supplement to any romantic relationship, but it’s important not to forget to be a friend to your partner.

How can you be a better friend? How can you be the best friend?

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 6 June 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Are you stewing on your break?

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of taking a break when you’re upset.

When one or both partners are flooded, it takes at least 20 minutes to calm down and be able to re-engage rationally.

But what if, after 20 minutes or so, you just feel more upset? What if you’re less overwhelmed, but filled with righteous anger? What if you’ve spent 20 minutes thinking of the perfect thing to say to nail your partner to the wall when you get back into it?

Once you’ve done the good work of suggesting a break, make sure you actually take it.

It’s okay—helpful even—to completely disengage from the argument to self-soothe.

Here are some things you can do on your break instead of stewing or ruminating.

    • Play a game on your phone (yes, this is fine!)
    • Go for a walk around the block
    • Watch TV (probably nothing too heavy or intense)
    • Spend time with a pet
    • Listen to music
    • Read a book
    • Focus on your breathing with a visual breathing exercise

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 14 May 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Allow room for change

Does your relationship have space to accommodate change?

Who were you five years ago? How were you different six months ago?

In what ways has your partner changed that you’re grateful for, beyond maybe a questionable hairstyle or two?

How have you changed together, as a couple?

Evolution is not to be feared.

In relationships, the only constant is change. Embrace it.

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 9 May 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Are you BRAVING?

In her SuperSoul Conversation, The Anatomy of Trust, Brené Brown introduces an acronym to help people build trust in their relationships.

She calls it BRAVING.

  • Boundaries: Are you clear about and respecting each other’s boundaries?
  • Reliability: Will you do what you say you will?
  • Accountability: Are you willing to own your mistakes?
  • Vault: Do you keep what is shared in confidence?
  • Integrity: Do you practice your values, rather than just professing them?
  • Non-judgment: Can you fall apart in front of each other without being judged? Do you refrain from judging yourselves for needing help
  • Generosity: Can you assume the most generous thing about the other person’s intent and behaviors, maintaining a positive perspective?

BRAVING can be hard to do, but the research shows that trust is built in the small, everyday interactions.

Be brave with your partner—to be truly seen is one of the greatest gifts we can offer and receive.

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 2 May 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Wait 10 seconds before sending

Do you practice digital emotional intelligence?

There are a lot of ways to do this, but one of the easiest is to check in with yourself before hitting “send” on an email, Facebook post, tweet, or text.

Take 10 seconds to ponder these questions before you send:

  • Am I feeling defensive? Reactive? Angry?
  • What is my emotional state?
  • Would I say this to someone in person?
  • Is there a chance my tone could be misinterpreted, or that I have misinterpreted theirs?
It’s easy to compose a reactive response, forgetting that there is a human being on the other end of the screen. Emotional intelligence is a powerful muscle to build, especially with more and more interactions happening digitally.

In the long term, practicing digital emotional intelligence can set you up for more positive in-person interactions.

The Relationship Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 23 April 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Witness, not fix this

When you see your partner in pain, your first instinct may be to offer advice or fix the problem to alleviate their suffering.

However, it can be more helpful to simply offer a listening ear. Acting as an empathetic witness to your partner’s struggles is often the most supportive move.

Offering advice can unintentionally communicate that you think they aren’t smart enough or capable of solving their own problems.

When in doubt, replace your solution with two magic words: “That sucks.”

Related blog posts

The Relationship Minute From The Gottman Institute, dated 18 April 2019. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.