Gottman 4 Horsemen NYC: Battling Divorce

Gottman Method Couples Therapy NYC,John Gottman,Travis Atkinson
Image of couple getting marriage therapy from Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling using Gottman Method.

Gottman 4 Horsemen NYC: Battling Divorce

Table of Contents

Taming Gottman’s 4 Horsemen: How to Avoid Divorce and Improve Your Relationship

Relationships. They can be as exhilarating as a rollercoaster ride, but sometimes, they can have more ups and downs than a kangaroo on a pogo stick. Fear not if you’re tired of trying to tame the rocky road to love! At Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling, we’re here to guide you through the world of the Gottman 4 Horsemen: the culprits behind relationship breakdowns and divorce. By understanding these pesky troublemakers and their antidotes, you’ll be on your way to improving your relationship and galloping off into the sunset together.

Key Takeaways

  • Say goodbye to relationship-ending ‘Four Horsemen’ with the Gottman Method Couples Therapy!
  • Combat criticism with empathy and understanding for a strong bond.
  • Show appreciation, practice self-soothing & open communication for happily ever after!

Understanding the Four Horsemen

A couple discussing Gottman Institute's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Let’s take a journey into the land of Gottman’s research, where John Gottman, the relationship researcher, has spent his life studying married couples. He discovered the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse:

  1. Criticism
  2. Contempt
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Stonewalling

These are the ultimate party poopers, able to predict relationship failure.
But fear not: each horseman has an antidote, so you and your partner can canter off into the sunset together instead of galloping away from each other, avoiding attacks on your partner’s personality and understanding your partner’s personality better.

Criticism: The First Horseman

Imagine you’re at a party, having a blast, when criticism shows up uninvited, attacking your partner’s character and personality. Suddenly, it feels like you’ve been ambushed, spurned, and emotionally wounded as if you’re under a perceived attack. Sounds awful, right? That’s because criticism is the first horseman of the relationship apocalypse, turning a simple complaint into a barrage of hurtful words.
The key to avoiding criticism is to address your partner’s complaint in a constructive manner, using “I” statements to express your feelings and empathic listening to understand your partner’s perspective. Adopting such an approach promotes a healthy relationship and keeps the first horseman at bay.

Contempt: The Second Horseman

Contempt, the second horseman, is the most dangerous of them all. This sneaky villain belittles your partner, making them feel emotionally overwhelmed and damaging the relationship. Imagine having a conversation, and your partner rolls their eyes or resorts to name-calling. Ouch! That’s contempt. Research from 2019 suggests that harboring contempt predicts poor health and a less-than-stellar state of mind.
How can we overcome contempt? The cure for this contemptuous behavior is to show understanding, ask politely, and don’t forget to say ‘thanks’ instead of basically implying that your partner is lazy or incompetent. This approach can prevent the second horseman from wreaking havoc on your relationship.
Image of happy couple after breaking through contempt using Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling in New York City.

Defensiveness: The Third Horseman

Defensiveness, the third horseman, is the family member who always blames the other for the mess they made. It leads to a never-ending cycle of finger-pointing and conflict, contributing to relationship failure. When one partner feels attacked, they may become defensive, shifting blame and avoiding responsibility, which makes it difficult to resolve conflicts and empathize with one another.
Accept responsibility for your part in the quarrel to tackle defensiveness, even if it’s only a teeny-tiny part. By taking responsibility, you enable yourself to break down the barriers of misunderstandings and foster a dialogue of understanding and empathy. Say goodbye to the third horseman and hello to a more harmonious relationship.

Stonewalling: The Fourth Horseman

Enter stonewalling, the fourth horseman. This troublemaker is all about withdrawing from a conversation to avoid conflict. However, this often exacerbates the situation, leaving your partner feeling emotionally overwhelmed and signaling the end of a relationship. During stonewalling, the heart rate zooms, stress hormones flood the body like a tidal wave, and the fight-or-flight response is ready to launch.
To prevent stonewalling, practice self-soothing techniques, such as taking a break and engaging in soothing activities like listening to your favorite tunes or treating yourself to a luxurious shower. These techniques allow you to keep the fourth horseman at bay and maintain a healthy relationship.

Antidotes to the Four Horsemen

A couple discussing how to combat criticism in their relationship
Now that we’ve met all the horsemen let’s talk about their antidotes. Each of the Four Horsemen has an antidote that can help improve communication and strengthen the relationship. These antidotes are like superheroes, swooping in to save the day and bring love and harmony back into your lives.
I will now explore these antidotes and the strategies to combat criticism, overcome contempt, tackle defensiveness, and prevent stonewalling.

Combating Criticism

To combat criticism, replace it with expressing feelings and needs, using “I” statements and empathic listening. Instead of saying, “You never help with the dishes,” try, “I feel overwhelmed when I have to do the dishes alone, and I would appreciate your help.” This approach shifts the focus from blame and accusation to expressing one’s feelings and experiences, leading to better communication and understanding between partners.
Another technique to combat criticism is to practice empathic listening. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Establish a safe and secure environment where both partners can express their feelings without fear of judgment or criticism.
  2. Tune in to your partner and genuinely listen to their feelings and perspectives.
  3. Respond in a caring and understanding way.
  4. Communicate effectively to maintain a healthy relationship.

You can effectively combat criticism and maintain a strong relationship by practicing empathic listening.
Image of lesbian couple combating criticism in their relationship at Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling in New York.

Overcoming Contempt

To overcome contempt, you can:

  • Build a culture of appreciation and admiration
  • Use a gentle start-up when discussing conflicts
  • Focus on the positives and shower your partner with compliments and admiration

These strategies can help prevent partners from feeling emotionally overwhelmed and maintain a healthy relationship by nurturing each partner’s sense of well-being.
When engaging in a conflict discussion, use a gentle start-up by expressing your concerns without blame or criticism. This approach helps avoid negative communication styles and interactions, fostering open communication and understanding and preventing the second horseman from causing havoc in your relationship. By doing so, you can prevent positive to negative interactions from taking place.

Tackling Defensiveness

To tackle defensiveness, take responsibility for your actions, validate your partner’s feelings, and ask what they need. If you’ve made a mistake, own up to it and apologize. This shows your partner that you’re willing to accept responsibility and work together towards a resolution.
Validation is also crucial in reducing defensiveness. Acknowledging your partner’s feelings and emotions demonstrates that you care and understand their perspective. This can lower defenses and ease any grumpy feelings, leading to more open and empathetic communication. Using these strategies helps to prevent defensiveness from derailing your relationship.
Image of an icon to book an appointment now at Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling.

Preventing Stonewalling

To prevent stonewalling, practice physiological self-soothing techniques and engage in open communication with empathy. If you withdraw from a conversation, take a break and engage in a soothing activity to calm yourself down before re-engaging with your partner.
Open communication is also essential in preventing stonewalling. Here are some strategies to foster understanding and connection:

  1. Encourage your partner to express their thoughts and feelings.
  2. Listen with empathy and without judgment.
  3. Avoid interrupting or dismissing your partner’s concerns.
  4. Validate your partner’s emotions and experiences.
  5. Practice active listening by paraphrasing and summarizing what your partner has said. By implementing these strategies, you can prevent the ‘silent treatment’ that often accompanies stonewalling and maintain a healthy and open line of communication in your relationship.

Adopting these techniques will help keep stonewalling at bay and maintain a strong, healthy relationship.

Gottman Method Couples Therapy NYC

A couple in a therapy session discussing the science behind the Gottman Method

Gottman Method Couples Therapy, developed by the Gottman Institute, is a scientifically-based therapy that helps couples build strong, healthy relationships by teaching effective communication strategies, fostering trust, and promoting emotional connection. The method is based on empirical data from Dr. Gottman’s research with over 3,000 couples, and it’s been proven to be effective in improving marital satisfaction, intimacy, and overall relationship satisfaction.I will now explore the science behind the method and its key components in more detail.

The Science Behind the Method

Based on empirical data from Gottman’s research with thousands of couples, Gottman Method Couples Therapy was developed by Dr. John Gottman, who discovered that how couples communicate is a huge factor in whether their marriage will sink or swim. His findings showed that couples’ interactions remain fairly consistent over time, with about 80% stability in conflict discussions separated by three years.
Dr. Gottman’s research also uncovered tell-tale signs of divorce and devised strategies to help couples stay together. Some of the signs of divorce include:

  • Contempt
  • Criticism
  • Defensiveness
  • Stonewalling

His ability to predict with 83% accuracy whether a couple will get divorced demonstrates the effectiveness of his method in improving and maintaining relationships.

Key Components of the Therapy

An image showing the four horsemen gottman, which are key components of the therapy.

The key components of the Gottman Method Couples Therapy include increasing respect, affection, and closeness; resolving conflicts; generating understanding; keeping discussions calm; and maintaining improvements in the relationship. Specific techniques, such as turning towards your partner’s bids with a smile, prioritizing emotional connection over all else, and managing conflict with a cool head, help couples achieve the relationship of their dreams.

The method also addresses the impact of trust in the aftermath of infidelity and works towards reviving trust and building a new relationship. By focusing on building trust in the little moments of everyday life and emphasizing the importance of trust in the relationship, couples can strengthen their bond and maintain a healthy, loving relationship.

Real-life Examples: Success Stories

A couple celebrating their success in overcoming relationship issues with the Gottman Method

Couples who have undergone Gottman Method Couples Therapy have experienced improved communication, conflict resolution, and relationship satisfaction. Through the therapy, they’ve learned to express their needs creatively, listen intently, and resolve conflicts with a bit of flair. The therapy focuses on building emotional connection, trust, and understanding between partners, which leads to improved communication and a stronger relationship overall.

Gottman Method Couples Therapy effectively addresses the four horsemen:

  • criticism
  • contempt
  • defensiveness
  • stonewalling

At Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling, we’ve been using Gottman Method Couples Therapy as an instrumental part of the Loving at Your Best Plan for over two decades, helping thousands of couples achieve their dream relationships. The therapy has been scientifically proven to be effective through research and clinical practice, making it a solid choice for couples looking to improve their relationship.

New York City’s Gottman Method Services

A couple discussing Gottman Method services in New York City


Travis Atkinson, the Founder and Director of Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling, has been a Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapist since 2006. He’s been helping couples in New York City strengthen their relationships.

Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling offers a team of experienced therapists. Directed by Travis Atkinson, our therapists include Senior Clinician Paul Chiariello, Couples and Family Specialist Tiffany Goldberg, and Sex and Intimacy Specialist Jon Prezant, who are dedicated to helping couples improve their communication, conflict resolution, and overall relationship satisfaction. With the help of these experts and the Gottman Method, couples in New York City can strengthen their bond and achieve the relationship they’ve always wanted.


Couples can overcome relationship challenges and build a stronger, more satisfying partnership by understanding and taming the Four Horsemen Gottman. Gottman Method Couples Therapy, backed by decades of research, provides couples with the tools and strategies needed to improve communication, resolve conflicts, and foster emotional connection. With the help of certified Gottman Method Couples Therapists, like those at New York City’s Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling, couples can transform their relationships and experience the love and happiness they deserve.

Image of couple who overcame the Gottman Four Horsemen in New York using Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Gottman Four Horsemen?

The Four Horsemen of Relationship Doom include Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling. As John Gottman so accurately identified, these behaviors are often predictors of a divorce – but with some recognition and effort, you can learn to avoid this fate!

Which of Gottman’s Four Horsemen do you feel most damages relationships and why?

Contempt is by far the most destructive and damaging behavior among Gottman’s Four Horsemen of Relationship Apocalypse. Not only does it put down and speak to our partner in a condescending manner, but it also has been found to be the number one predictor of divorce, according to Dr. John Gottman’s research.

What are the 4 horsemen of attachment styles?

According to John Gottman, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling – are the fearsome behavioral predictors of divorce or break-up. Even though relationships aren’t perfect, these horsemen are not something you want to face in your life!

What is the Gottman repair checklist?

The Gottman Repair Checklist is a library of interventions that includes a list of phrases categorized into “I Feel,” “SORRY,” “GET TO YES,” and “STOP ACTION.” It’s designed to help stop escalating negativity in conversations – so if things start getting heated, this list is your go-to for phrases that will (or won’t) do the trick!

What is Gottman Method Couples Therapy, and how can it help couples?

Gottman Method Couples Therapy at Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling is the perfect way to make your relationship stronger and healthier, with scientifically backed advice on communicating better, building trust, and establishing an emotional connection.

Next Steps: How to Vanquish the Four Horsemen and Fortify Your Relationship Fortress

We’ve covered the foreboding shadows of the Four Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. These fearsome riders have razed many a love story to the dust, but fret not, for their reign of terror meets its match at Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling. Connect with our seasoned sages of relationship wisdom today and declare, once and for all, that the love apocalypse has met its match!
Image of an icon to book an appointment now at Loving at Your Best Marriage and Couples Counseling.



  • Travis Atkinson

    Travis Atkinson, L.C.S.W., is the Director and Creator of the Loving at Your Best Plan. He has extensive training in marriage and couples therapy, based on over 27 years in practice, earning certificates from top-rated couples therapy models, including: *Certified Advanced Schema Therapist, Supervisor and Trainer for Individuals and Couples *Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist and Supervisor *Certified Gottman Method Couples Therapist *Certified Group Psychotherapist *Honorary Lifetime Member of the International Society of Schema Therapy Travis is a co-author of the latest schema mode therapy inventory, the SMI. He is also the co-author of two chapters in the recently published “Creative Methods in Schema Therapy: Advances and Innovation in Clinical Practice (Routledge, 2020) and author of “Schema Therapy for Couples: Healing Partners in a Relationship” in the Handbook of Schema Therapy (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

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