Traditionally, the relationship is presented to us as a strictly emotional matter, where what we popularly call love invades us at some point in a very intense way, and causes us to feel that we are in love. This feeling maintained over time will lead us to love and be loved independently of other variables.
This relational model supported by agents of culture, such as novels, TV series, movies, folk songs and more, conveys and reinforces the process that a romantic relationship is meant to go through. From this model certain myths and beliefs arise that contribute to the way a romantic relationship develops. We’re going to talk here about how these beliefs about love can help trigger what some psychologists refer to as “the horsemen of the love apocalypse.”
Usual beliefs about romantic love
These are the main ideas that guide the way we understand and interpret romantic relationships based on romantic love:
- The orange half: the belief that we are predestined to love a certain person.
- Exclusivity: the idea that only one person can be loved at a time.
- Sociocultural beliefs: the belief in getting married and having children.
- The omnipotent power of love: the belief that “love can do anything” and “as long as we love each other, there is hope”.
- Jealousy: Thoughts like “if I’m not jealous of my partner, I’m not really in love”.
These myths and many more are inappropriate beliefs that they become direct mediators when it comes to maintaining a relationship.
The reality is that relationships are a bit more complex, and sometimes that love that you first clung to fades without you coming to understand why. Usually the company it does not reflect love based on respect for the individuality of the other, in the knowledge and real acceptance of it, in mutual enrichment and the ability to solve problems. Although, paradoxically, studies show that couples who have relationships that take these variables into account are more durable.
It is essential to develop a common way of life that makes both parties happy and therefore it is important to know the different problems that can arise and the factors that predispose them to being able to avoid them.
The 4 Horsemen of the Relationship Apocalypse
John and Julie Gottman are a married couple of researchers who study couples and analyze their relationships through direct observations and physiological recordings in their “Love Lab” or Love Lab, where they have evaluated more than 3,000 couples.
As a result of the results of these studies, some very interesting conclusions were drawn for relationships. They found four key factors that directly influence the couple and called them “the Four Horsemen of the Relational Apocalypse.” There are several potential problems that can kill love, which are linked to four crucial mistakes, In this case, referring to communication.
First rider: critical
You can complain about the couple, especially if it’s the person you live with. But when complaints turn into criticism, we create a problem. Complaints are specific manifestations of a specific fact. But a criticism is a global and lasting attitude and directly attacks the personality of the couple.
One complaint is, “Yesterday you didn’t clean the kitchen when you said you would.” Instead, a review would be, “You are an irresponsible person, so I always have to clean the kitchen when it’s your turn.”
Criticism is not the couple’s biggest problem, in fact it is very common among couples. Difficulty is created because criticism opens the way for other runners.
Second rider: contempt
Sarcasm, insults, mockery, ridicule … All are signs of contempt and they are good predictors of relationship failure. Contempt is exacerbated by long-held negative thoughts about the couple. You are more likely to have these negative thoughts when the differences are not resolved. An example is: “The young woman thinks they should do everything for her, of course she is a princess, she does not realize how disrespectful she is and that the others are not her maids.”
Belligerency is a cousin of contempt and equally deadly for a relationship. It is a form of aggressive anger because it contains a threat or provocation. When one part of the couple berates the other for something and the other responds, “What are you going to do, report it?”
Third rider: the defensive attitude
Although sometimes, depending on the situation, it is understandable for a party to defend themselves, a desired effect is rarely achieved. The aggressive side usually doesn’t give their arm a twist or apologize. This is because the defensive attitude is actually seen as a way of attacking. The couple feel like they’re being blamed.
Example: “You didn’t clean the kitchen when it was your turn”; “I don’t always have time to clean up because I have to cook dinner by the time you get there” (defensive attitude).
Fourth rider: the evasive attitude
In pairs where the three previous runners perform, most likely after a while one of the two parties will eventually distance themselves. When one party criticizes their partner, the other party may hide behind the cell phone or end up leaving.
He applies an evasive attitude and, although he avoids a discussion for the moment, he makes the situation worse in the long run. This behavior usually occurs when the other three runners have already settled in, due to exhaustion.
This attitude has a lot to do with feeling overwhelmed. When a person feels this way thinks that she is powerless in the face of the aggression that she suffers and ends up adopting measures of struggle (defensive attitude) or flight (evasive attitude). The only thing the person thinks about is to protect themselves, so that after exhaustion, they emotionally distance themselves from the relationship.
There are two reasons why a person generally feels overwhelmed. First, it indicates that one of the parties feels very strained emotionally when dealing with their partner. Second, the physical sensations caused by this emotion (significantly increased heart rate, sweating, increased blood pressure, secretion of adrenaline, etc.) make fruitful discussion impossible.
Is the breakup inevitable?
The appearance of one of the riders in a relationship does not predict the breakup. In fact, some of the runners were seen at one point in stable marriages. But when all four appear consistently, it means the relationship is in serious trouble.
It is therefore essential to develop alternative communication skills, And especially in the couple to ensure a stable future.
In a future article, we’ll look at some possible solutions and tools for dealing with each of these runners when they appear in a relationship.