Why Can't We Just Communicate!?


Four Guaranteed Relationship Destroyers

Renowned lesbian matchmaker and relationship coach, Dr. Frankie Bashan of Little Gay Book, will discuss four behaviors we should all be aware of and do our best to manage. Dr. Frankie is a clinical psychologist and relationship coach with a decade of experience helping people just like you overcome challenges of all kinds. Based on Dr. Frankie's professional experience, individuals who communicate by using any of the "Four Horsemen" will ultimately destroy even the strongest relationship. The "Four Horsemen" are based on research collected by relationship expert Dr. John Gottman. By reading this article you will learn helpful tips that will greatly improve your communication skills and fortify your relationship for the long haul.


Have you ever found yourself giving your partner the silent treatment, rolling your eyes, or blaming your partner for your own actions?  Albeit small, if these behaviors occur high in frequency and intensity they are markers that often accurately predict whether a relationship will succeed or fail.  I want my members to have an in-depth understanding of their various types of relationships whether it's friendships, dating interests, and/or the love of your life.  However, developing relationship insight takes work and begins with identifying your own pattern of communication. Next you must take ownership of your own contribution (i.e behavior) in the relationship. By doing so, you increase your sense of control and it opens the door to problem solve a possibly contentious situation. This month’s newsletter will review Dr. Gottman’s famous “Four Horsemen”, which are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. The ultimate goal is by identifying these behaviors you can work to change them, and be successful in creating a happy relationship.

John Gottman, Ph.D., is a relationship expert who has spent decades collecting data and observing couples interactions. Based on his research and experience he claims he is able to accurately predict which couples will stay together in long lasting relationships.  One pattern of interaction that was found to increase the duration of a relationship was having high levels of positive interactions.  In fact, the magic number turned out to be 5 positive interactions for every one negative interaction; couples that maintained this 5:1 ratio were happier and more stable.  This 5:1 interaction can help to reduce the impact of negative communication, because negative interactions typically have a stronger impact than positive ones.  This information is incredibly important in counterbalancing some of the damage that can be done when coping with negative communication.


The Four Horsemen


Negative interactions known as the “Four Horsemen” were found to be associated with couples whose relationship was likely to end.  These destructive interactions make up the second pattern that predicts the duration of a relationship:

Criticism: Making character attacks.  This usually takes form by attacking one’s personality or characteristics.  Generalization statements may commonly take place as a list of complaints about one’s past behavior to suggest a character fault.  Examples include, “you never; you always; why do you always do; you’re the kind of person who; you’re so ___.”


Contempt: Insulting or causing psychological abuse with intention.  This takes the form by attacking your partner’s sense of self.   These behaviors convey a lack of concern for your partner, their feelings, and reflect an overall negative view of your partner.  This may come in the form of body language, ex. rolling your eyes, sneering; name calling and insults “jerk, slob, ugly, fat;” and sarcasm, humor, and/or mockery.

Defensiveness: You view yourself as the victim, in an attempt to ward off a perceived attack.  This can take form when one makes counter-complaints, makes excuses (“I didn’t do __”), making “yes, but” statements, repeating oneself (without listening), and whining.


Stonewalling: A form of communication in which one has totally withdrawn from a conversation. This can take the form of being silent, leaving the room, changing topics, and ultimately any behavior that conveys one has stopped responding to communication.  This is seen as a total breakdown in communication, though it is usually used to avoid conflict, de-escalate a situation, or stay neutral; stonewalling behavior sends the message of separation, coldness, and disconnect.

These four destructive interactions are viewed on a spectrum from least to most damaging, where criticism leads to contempt; contempt leads to defensiveness; and defensiveness leads to stonewalling. Studies show that couples who cycle through this spectrum are more likely to break up.  Stay tuned for next month’s newsletter where I explain "fair fighting". We will discuss the most effective and constructive ways to communicate your needs. I hope you find this article to be a valuable tool to assess your current relationship and identify what behaviors you may want to change.  Remember, for all behaviors we do not like, there are always remedies for positive change.