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8 February 2019

100 Day Personal Performance + Business Growth Challenge (Day 37): Four things that can mess up your relationship

Jairek Robbins

Maintaining a healthy and fulfilling relationship is a delicate balance that requires constant effort and understanding. Unfortunately, there are four destructive behaviors, often referred to as the “Four Horsemen,” that can wreak havoc on your relationship if left unchecked. In this blog post, we will explore these four negative behaviors and provide valuable insights on how to avoid them, fostering a stronger and more harmonious connection with your partner.

  1. The First Horseman: Criticism

Criticism is the first horseman that can gradually erode the foundation of a relationship. It involves attacking your partner’s character or behavior rather than addressing a specific issue. Instead of expressing your feelings constructively, criticism tends to blame and shame, leading to defensiveness and resentment in your partner. To avoid this destructive behavior, focus on communicating your concerns without attacking your partner’s personality. Use “I” statements to express your feelings and needs, fostering a more empathetic and understanding conversation.

  1. The Second Horseman: Contempt

Contempt is the most toxic horseman that can poison your relationship. It manifests as sarcasm, mockery, eye-rolling, or insulting remarks, displaying a complete lack of respect and admiration for your partner. Contempt often arises from deep-rooted negative emotions and can cause irreparable damage to your connection. To counteract contempt, practice active appreciation and gratitude for your partner’s qualities and efforts. Cultivate empathy and compassion, seeking to understand their perspective and validate their emotions.

  1. The Third Horseman: Defensiveness

Defensiveness is a natural response to criticism or perceived attacks, but it can quickly escalate conflicts and hinder productive communication. When one partner becomes defensive, it shuts down the possibility of resolving issues constructively. To avoid defensiveness, practice active listening and avoid the temptation to counter with justifications or blame. Instead, acknowledge your partner’s concerns and take responsibility for your actions, fostering a more open and empathetic dialogue.

  1. The Fourth Horseman: Stonewalling

Stonewalling occurs when one partner withdraws from the interaction, emotionally shutting down to avoid conflict or overwhelm. While it may seem like a way to protect oneself, stonewalling only deepens the emotional distance between partners. To prevent stonewalling, create a safe space for open communication and vulnerability. Practice self-regulation techniques to manage overwhelming emotions, allowing you and your partner to engage in constructive problem-solving.


Recognizing and avoiding the four horsemen—criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling—is crucial for nurturing a thriving and loving relationship. By cultivating healthy communication, empathy, and respect, you can build a solid foundation that withstands the challenges of time. Remember that relationships require continuous effort and understanding, and addressing these destructive behaviors can lead to a deeper and more fulfilling connection with your partner.

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