Four Destroyers of Marriage

Would you want the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse trampling through your home?  The end-times imagery that the Apostle John paints in his Revelation captures the grim effect these destroyers will have on the planet.  As one of a few true experts on marriage and relationship, Dr. John Gottman’s 25 years of research has identified some common Destroyers of marriage. He claims a 91% accuracy rate in predicting whether a couple will succeed or fail based on certain criteria.  In his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, he states, “These predictions are not based on my intuition or preconceived notions of what marriage ‘should be’, but on the data I’ve accumulated over years of study.”

The majority of this great book defines the principles for a successful marriage.  However, the first 2 chapters describe several factors that he uses to predict a couple’s demise. The second predictor he exposes is so destructive he borrows from the imagery of Jesus’ Revelation to John – he refers to it as “The Four Horseman.”  Having become more aware of these perilous Destroyers I now recognize them at work in almost every couple I counsel! Don’t make light of them.  Don’t justify them or excuse them in your marriage.  As I explain these Destroyers in this article, give the Holy Spirit the freedom to reveal whether or not one or more of them are trampling your marriage.

The First Horseman – CRITICISM

Dr. Gottman explains that all of us will have complaints about the person we are married to. But there is a huge difference between a complaint and a criticism.  The difference between a complaint and a criticism is simple yet profound. “A complaint only addresses the specific action at which your spouse failed. A criticism is more global – it adds on some negative words about your mate’s character or personality.”

The Second Horseman – CONTEMPT

I agree with the author that contempt is the worst of the four horsemen. In spite of how destructive it is, I recognize this ravaging destroyer in many of the couples I counsel. Because so few homes have the infrastructure of SAFETY and HONESTY, contempt begins to eek out of the angry, disappointed hearts. The long-standing negative thoughts about your spouse find their expression in cynical, sarcastic and, eventually, belligerent behavior.

The Third Horseman – DEFENSIVENESS

In most cases, when one partner becomes defensive in the face of sarcasm or criticism it seems entirely reasonable. The catch 22 is that “research shows that this approach rarely has the desired effect. The attacking spouse does not back down or apologize.”  What may initially be intended as a form of protection or need for validation actually only fuels the flames of criticism and contempt.

The Fourth Horseman – STONEWALLING

Couples I’ve counseled have become so wrung out from the negative cycle described above that they have stopped talking to each other for weeks! One wife had requested of her husband to clean some outside windows on their house that had become embarrassingly unsightly. The husband promised to do the task that weekend.  Slightly before noon on Saturday the husband had been relaxing around the house and turned on the TV. At that, the wife blew a gasket and began to question his priorities and wondered why he was not choosing to wash the windows. He immediately became defensive which only escalated her contempt toward her “lazy, uncaring” husband.  In short order, the husband shut down emotionally, left in his truck and didn’t talk to her for days!  In fact, this scenario had been repeated so many times in their marriage the husband became a “professional” stonewaller becoming proficient at shutting out his wife and assuring her that he could care less.  Gottman points out that this final horseman usually shows up later in marriage following multiple failed attempts at reconciliation.

Is there an “apocalyptic” feel to your marriage because of these destructive forces?  If so, they must be destroyed before they destroy you!  For some, you are so entrenched in this negative cycle you have no hope that you can ever escape its death grip.  For others, you are recognizing the emerging trends of criticism, contempt and defensiveness leaving only unresolved conflict and bitterness in their wake.  Having these and other traits present in your marriage, according to Dr. Gottman, are “predictors” of divorce.

I urge you to get help in destroying these destroyers.  True Relationships Counseling is ready and able to help you find peace in your marriage.  Whether you are local or distant we can get you back on the right track.  Call TODAY for more information at 937.510.5595 or visit our website at


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