McClellan & Associates

10 words every couple should know


Inevitably couples fight over the course of their relationship. It can be a part of growing closer or growing apart.  These 10 words and terms give couples the blueprint to talk with one another in a manner that brings positive change and health to their relationship.

the challenge

Simply strive to avoid the behavior of the "Four Horsemen" and continually practice the corresponding antidotes.  Memorize the terms and use them when talking with your spouse.  It is our hope you will become both kinder, and more appreciative and loving in your marriage. Avoid the Four Horsemen, and  practice the Four Antidotes.

the four horsemen

corresponding antidotes

1. Criticism
Verbally attacking personality or character.
2. Gentle Start up
Talk about your feelings using "I" statements and express a positive need.
3. contempt
Attacking sense of self with an intent to insult or abuse.
4. build culture of appreciation
Remind yourself of your partner's positive qualities and find gratitude for positive actions.
5. defensiveness
Victimizing yourself to ward off a perceived attack and reverse the blame.
6. take responsibility
Accept your partner's perspective and offer a apology for any wrongdoing.
7. stonewalling
Withdrawing to avoid conflict and connivery disapproval, distance, and separation.
8. physiological self-soothing
Take a break (20-25 minutes) and spend that time doing something soothing and distracting. Come back and try again gently.
9. the arena
A metaphor to describe four communication styles that, based on the work of John Gottman, can spell disaster for a relationship if left unchecked are, the four horsemen: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.
10. standing your sacred ground
Sacred ground is gently choosing to see your spouse and yourself as beloved, while communicating a difference with them as you remain vulnerable and honest.