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4 Horseman of the Apocalypse in Relationships

Updated on February 13, 2012

4 Horsemen of What?!

When most people read about the four horsemen of the apocalypse, they think of the end of the world. However, in this hub we are talking about relationships. In a study done a couple of years ago, a group of psychologists attempted to understand if they could see by looking at a couple if they would last for years or break up. In watching and asking couples about how they fight, it was discovered there were four "horsemen" that destroy relationships.

  • Criticism
  • Contempt
  • Defensiveness
  • Stonewalling

Known as the Love Lab, they discovered what relationships would survive because of these four key points. I will go through each of these points and discuss how they can make or break a relationship. If you realize you have these signs in your relationship, don't panic or worry. Just try to calmly resolve some of them. Find simple tips on how to make a better relationship fighting style and learn from the knowledge given to you.


The first horseman is criticism. This is when one of the partner's attacks the other individual's personality or character. "You are a horrible person." "You are so selfish! Why can't you do anything for someone else?" These are real relationship breakers.

The fight might be because the partner forgot to switch the laundry and the clothes smell of mold that you wanted to wear tomorrow. Deal with what happened. So you can't wear the clothes you planned on, find another pair of clothes. It shouldn't be too difficult with the 30 pieces of clothing that you own.

Or the parter could leave trash around the house. Then you start complaining about their trash and that they cannot keep themselves in check and that you have to be their mommy and that's not why you married them. Instead of causing a fight or discussion, just pick up their stuff. Or you could even retaliate and leave your trash in their favorite places to show them how you feel. Just pick a different route.


Believe it or not, contempt is the second of the four horsemen. This is the intent to insult or abuse. It could be physical abuse to yourself or to the other individual.

For example, I dated a male who used to beat himself up when he was upset. It was very upsetting for me to see that he would do that to himself. Was I somehow causing his furious emotions? Could I do anything to make him stop? Because of the doubts, I started an eating disorder believing I wasn't enough to keep him happy or satisfied. For him to stop beating himself up, I decided that every time he hurt himself, I would hurt myself. Within one time of trying out my theory, he had stopped hurting himself and breaking objects.

So there is a way to get someone to stop beating themselves up in a relationship. However, when one individual wishes to harm the other individual, there is no way the relationship will continue on well. Those actions can only get worse and very rarely get better.


The third piece of the apocalypse puzzle consists of defense. When fighting, some individuals put the blame on the other person. It is a defense that we sometimes use to feel better an weaken our opponent. It is extremly harmful and doesn't help the person who uses it. When people get used to putting the blame on others, they do not grow into friendly adults. They become bitter and easily defensive and believe they can do no wrong. It is extremely upsetting for those around them and they are mostly friendless and normally with few family members that drop by.

It is best to accept what you have done for a while. If there is a bunch of trash on the kitchen table or counter top, then pick up the pieces that are yours. It doesn't matter if you put half of it on there or only four pieces. You were a part in the litering so do not blame it all on your partner when you did the same exact thing. It makes you look bad and will harm your work as well.


One of the most interesting horsemen is the stonewalling part of a relationship. Most men participate in stonewalling than women but both sexes can do this. One of the individuals show no emotion on their face. It is like speaking to a stone wall, hense the name. Both people should show their emotions.

Women take their partner's to the psychologist's office complaining, "it's as if he doesn't want us to work". Well, men this is what they are upset about. Women want a response, some emotions. When they see the stonewall face, they have to wonder "what is he thinking". It causes doubt, paranoid emotions, and plenty of issues in a relationship. Try to resolve it.


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    • momster profile image

      momster 5 years ago

      Very interesting information. Never thought of these things in relationships. Thanks for sharing this information. It will be very helpful.