Like the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says that in closed energy systems things tend to run down and get less orderly, the same seems to be true of closed relationships like marriages. My guess is that if you do nothing to make things get better in your marriage but do not do anything wrong, the marriage will still tend to get worse over time. To maintain a balanced emotional ecology you need to make an effort—think about your spouse during the day, think about how to make a good thing even better, and act.

~John M. Gottman.

Couples Therapy - InBetween Creating Opportunities 

***You don’t need to articulate everything; sometimes, you can communicate your feelings silently. Just try it and see what unfolds. You might choose one of the below invitations to discuss together, but use the others as a way to connect without words.

***Consider simply exchanging kind looks, or observing each other with a gentle gaze. When you're apart, picture your partner in your mind's eye, maintaining a soft focus on them. Imagine, too, that they are looking back at you with kindness and warmth. This silent communication can deepen your connection in beautifully unspoken ways.

***Intention: Set your relationship GPS together—decide your direction and consciously choose how you want to respond to challenges this week.


  • Step back and observe without criticism. Embrace the quirks and decode messages without clouding them with bias or past shadows.
  • Cultivate a garden of patience where your relationship can bloom at its own pace. Recognise that growth takes time and the best moments unfold naturally.
  • Keep the wonder of life alive! Approach each day with your partner as if it's a new chapter.
  • Just be. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the moment together without an agenda, checklist ,or an itinerary.

Diverse factors like ingrained behaviours, attachment styles, external pressures, and unresolved trauma can make relationships complex. Regular check-ins and stress-reducing conversations with your partner are beneficial. Active listening, clear communication, and understanding when to offer support or solutions are vital skills. Recognising and addressing unproductive conflict patterns such as criticism, rejection, or avoidance can lead to more effective conflict resolution. Remember, our reactions in conflicts are often automatic. Pausing to acknowledge internal triggers and emotions can lead to more thoughtful responses, fostering calm and regulation. This self-regulation is a crucial step towards collaborative conversation and conflict resolution, ultimately enriching the relationship.

Relationships thrive on mutual effort and commitment. Success in navigating challenges, especially during disagreements, hinges on the individual attributes, insights, and attachment styles of each partner. Mastering effective communication and conflict resolution is crucial, yet maintaining composure under stress can be demanding. Recognising the influence of past experiences and learned communication patterns is key to enhancing self-awareness and improving interactions.

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The Four Horsman

When it comes to navigating the complex world of interpersonal communication, especially within relationships, Dr. John Gottman's concept of the Four Horsemen stands out as a pivotal guide. This framework, derived from Gottman's extensive research on marital stability and divorce prediction, identifies four negative communication patterns that can predict the end of a relationship. Understanding these patterns is crucial for developing healthier communication habits. Below is an overview suitable for a website section dedicated to enhancing communication skills:

1. Criticism: Criticism involves attacking your partner’s character or personality instead of focusing on specific behaviors. Unlike constructive feedback, which addresses specific actions, criticism makes broad, generalizing statements about a person's character, often leading to defensiveness and decreased intimacy. For instance, saying, "You never think about anyone else" is a critique of character, while "I feel neglected when you plan activities without consulting me" focuses on behavior.

2. Contempt: Contempt is a step beyond criticism and is marked by sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. It represents a form of disrespect and disgust. Contempt is particularly destructive because it conveys disgust and superiority over one's partner, undermining the respect and affection critical for a relationship’s foundation. It's the single greatest predictor of divorce, according to Gottman.

3. Defensiveness: Defensiveness is typically a response to criticism. When we feel unjustly accused, we fish for excuses and play the innocent victim so that our partner will back off. Unfortunately, this strategy is almost never successful. Our excuses just tell our partner that we don't take their concerns seriously and that we won’t take responsibility for our mistakes. Defensiveness only escalates the conflict, which can lead to a gridlock of unresolved issues.

4. Stonewalling: Stonewalling occurs when one partner withdraws from the interaction, shutting down dialogue and essentially becoming unresponsive. It often happens as a response to contempt. Stonewalling can be both a defense mechanism and a sign of being overwhelmed. However, it prevents issues from being addressed and resolved, leading to further deterioration in the relationship.

Recognising these patterns in your communication is the first step toward healthier interactions. Strategies to counteract the Four Horsemen include:

  • For Criticism: Use "I" statements to express your feelings and needs without assigning blame.
  • For Contempt: Build a culture of appreciation and respect in the relationship.
  • For Defensiveness: Take responsibility for your part in the conflict, even if it's just recognizing how your reaction may have escalated the situation.
  • For Stonewalling: Learn to identify when you're feeling overwhelmed and take a break if needed. Develop and practice self-soothing techniques.

Improving communication in relationships requires conscious effort and practice. By addressing the Four Horsemen, couples can develop a deeper understanding, respect, and empathy towards each other, fostering a healthier and more resilient partnership.

  • CALM

John Gottman's research has led to the finding that he can predict with up to 95% accuracy whether a couple will break up, stay together unhappily, or stay together happily, based on observations made in the first three minutes of the couple's interaction. This astonishing capability stems from his analysis of the couple's communication patterns, emotional expressions, and conflict resolution skills within those crucial first minutes.

The key to this predictive power lies in identifying the presence and intensity of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling) and other negative interaction patterns early in the conversation. Contempt is particularly significant among these, as Gottman has identified it as the single best predictor of divorce. It conveys disgust and disrespect, and it can quickly erode the fondness and admiration that are crucial for a loving relationship.

Gottman's research highlights the importance of positive interactions, such as showing interest, expressing affection, showing care, and being constructive rather than destructive during conflict discussions. The balance between positive and negative interactions, especially under stress or disagreement, is critical in assessing the health and longevity of the relationship.

The ability to make such predictions is based on Gottman's development of a detailed coding system to categorise every interaction in couples' conversations, enabling a thorough analysis of their relational dynamics. This methodology has allowed Gottman and his colleagues to accumulate a vast amount of data on what relational behaviors are most predictive of a relationship's future success or failure, making his work a cornerstone in the field of relationship psychology.



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