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How To Fight Better In A Relationship

In every relationship, conflict is inevitable, even in the most thriving ones. However, many studies reveal that the manner in which conflict is handled determines the outcome of a relationship, whether it thrives or falters. We emphasize "managing" conflict rather than "resolving" it because relationship conflict is inherent and carries constructive, beneficial elements that foster growth and empathy.


Moreover, some issues may remain unsolvable due to inherent personality disparities between partners. Nevertheless, if you can adeptly navigate these challenges in a constructive manner, your relationship can flourish.

The initial phase of proficient conflict management involves recognizing and neutralizing The Four Horsemen when they emerge in your discussions. Failing to do so may pose significant challenges to the future of your relationship. However, akin to Newton’s Third Law, there exists an antidote for each horseman, and you can discover how and when to employ them below.

If you missed last week article about The Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, you can find it in here

The Antidote to Criticism: Gentle Start-Up

Whereas a complaint addresses a particular action, criticism strikes at the core of a person's character. To counter criticism, employ a complaint devoid of blame, using a gentle and considerate approach. Avoid directing accusations with "you," which may imply fault, and instead articulate your emotions using "I" statements while expressing your desires positively.


In essence, consider these two aspects when crafting your gentle introduction: What am I feeling? What do I require?


Criticism: "You're always so self-centred. Why can't you ever think about others?"


Antidote: "I'm feeling a bit excluded from our conversation tonight, and I need to share my thoughts. Could we discuss my day, please?"


Note how the antidote begins with "I feel," transitions into "I need," and politely requests to fulfil that need. This approach avoids blame or criticism, thus averting the escalation of the conversation into an argument.

The Antidote to Contempt: Build a Culture of Appreciation and Respect

Contempt manifests in expressions that convey a sense of moral superiority. Examples include sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humour. Contempt is profoundly damaging and is the strongest predictor of divorce, necessitating its avoidance at all costs.


The remedy for contempt lies in fostering a culture of appreciation and mutual respect within your relationship, and several strategies can help achieve this. One approach the Gottman’s advocate is "Small Things Often": regularly demonstrating appreciation, gratitude, affection, and respect for your partner cultivates a positive atmosphere that serves as a buffer against negative sentiments. The more positive the atmosphere, the less likely contemptuous feelings or expressions will arise. You can find more about this in here:


Another effective strategy is John’s and Julie’s Gottman discovery of the 5:1 "magic ratio" of positive to negative interactions essential for relationship success. By ensuring that there are five or more positive interactions for every negative one, you consistently deposit emotional currency into your relationship's account, maintaining it in a healthy state.


Contempt: "You forgot to load the dishwasher again? Ugh. You're so lazy." (Accompanied by eye-rolling.)


Antidote: "I understand you've been busy lately, but could you please remember to load the dishwasher when I work late? I'd appreciate it."


This antidote is effective because it begins with empathy. The speaker acknowledges that the oversight likely stems from busyness rather than laziness or ill intent, avoiding any contemptuous remarks or assumptions of moral superiority. Instead, it concludes with a respectful request and an expression of gratitude.

The Antidote to Defensiveness: Take Responsibility

 Defensiveness arises as a form of self-protection, characterized by righteous indignation or a sense of innocent victimhood in response to perceived criticism. Many individuals’ default to defensiveness when faced with criticism, yet this reaction fails to resolve the underlying issue.


Defensiveness essentially shifts blame onto one's partner, implying that the fault lies with them rather than oneself. Consequently, conflicts remain unresolved and may even intensify. The antidote to defensiveness is accepting responsibility, even if only partially, for the conflict at hand.


Defensiveness: "It's not my fault we're running late. You always take forever to get ready."


Antidote: "I understand the importance of being punctual, but I agree we could leave a bit later sometimes. I'll try to be more flexible."


In this response, the individual acknowledges their role in the conflict (insisting on leaving early) while also expressing a willingness to compromise. By accepting responsibility, they prevent the conflict from escalating and open the door to constructive dialogue and resolution.

The Antidote to Stonewalling: Physiological Self-Soothing

 Stonewalling occurs when an individual completely withdraws from a conflict conversation, ceasing to engage or respond to their partner. Typically, this response arises when one feels overwhelmed or emotionally flooded, prompting a shutdown and disengagement. Couples experiencing stonewalling often face heightened emotional tension, leading to elevated heart rates, the release of stress hormones, and even activation of the fight-or-flight response.


In one of the Gottman’s longitudinal studies, they’ve intervened during arguments by instructing couples to cease discussion and spend thirty minutes reading magazines without addressing their issue. Upon resuming conversation, participants exhibited significantly lower heart rates and engaged in more positive and productive interactions.


During this hiatus, partners unwittingly engaged in physiological self-soothing by diverting attention from the conflict. As they calmed down, they became better equipped to resume discussion in a respectful and rational manner.


Hence, the remedy for stonewalling lies in practicing physiological self-soothing, beginning with halting the conflict dialogue and calling for a timeout:


"Look, we've revisited this repeatedly. I'm tired of reminding you—"


"Honey, I apologize for interrupting, but I'm feeling overwhelmed and require a break. Could you allow me twenty minutes, after which we can reconvene?"


Failing to take a break may result in continued stonewalling or explosive outbursts, neither of which fosters resolution. A minimum twenty-minute break is essential to allow physiological calming. It's vital to avoid thoughts of indignation or victimhood during this period and engage in soothing and distracting activities such as music, reading, or exercise to facilitate relaxation.

You possess the abilities. Apply them!

Having grasped the concepts of the Four Horsemen and their corresponding remedies, you now possess the fundamental instruments to navigate conflicts effectively. Upon detecting criticism or contempt creeping in, recall their antidotes promptly. Stay watchful. By keeping the Four Horsemen in check, you enhance the likelihood of maintaining a steady and fulfilling relationship.

If you've found the content intriguing and are seeking further guidance or valuable insights on nurturing a joyful and satisfying relationship, the next step is to visit the Contact Me Page and schedule your initial consultation. Looking forward seeing you and your partner.

With gratitude,


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