Contempt is ‘single greatest predictor of divorce,’ according to Gottman Institute
Alex Scot, who regularly uses the platform, where she goes by the username @thealexscot and has more than 27,000 followers, to share dating and relationship advice, recently discussed the “four horsemen” in a video titled: “Things that are NOT normal within a relationship.”
In the video, Scot referenced marital stability research conducted by clinical psychologist Dr John Gottman, who, with his wife Julie Gottman, created the Gottman Institute.
As outlined by Scot, Dr Gottman came up with the “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” to describe four communication behaviours that signal a red flag in a relationship.
“The four horsemen are statistically proven to be the initial predictors of divorces or breakups,” Scot explained. “Sadly, society has kind of normalised these behaviours and I’m here to shine a big red flag so that you can stay away from them.”
In the TikTok, Scot goes on to describe contempt, the “first and worst of the four horsemen,” explaining that the trait is when you “talk down to your partner as if you are superior and they are less than”.
Scot then gave an example of contempt, telling viewers a situation where a partner says: “I learned how to tell time when I was five, when are you going to learn?” is “very contemptuous and not OK”.
The second horseman Scot referenced is defensiveness, which she said would be evident if one person in the relationship raised the topic of something they don’t like, only for the other person to “respond in defense of that behaviour instead of hearing them out and being open to changing”.
The relationship expert then addressed the horseman stonewalling, telling her followers that the trait refers to the silent treatment.
When discussing the last horseman, criticism, Scot explained that there is a “difference between criticising your partner’s character or behaviour on the whole” and criticising something that took place specifically, such as an event or a situation.
To help distinguish the behaviour, Scot gives two examples of things a partner could say, with the first: “You never help me around the house,” criticising their partner as a whole, while the second: “I’m frustrated that the trash hasn’t been taken out yet,” specifically linking the criticism to one issue.
While any of the traits can be a sign of concern, on the Gottman Institute blog, it lists criticism as the first horseman, noting that just because the trait appears in a relationship doesn’t necessarily mean it is doomed.
However, the blog does warn that “the problem with criticism is that, when it becomes pervasive, it paves the way for the other, far deadlier horsemen to follow”.
As noted by Scot, contempt is the worst of the horsemen, as it “is the single greatest predictor of divorce,” according to the Gottman Institute.
The TikTok, which has been viewed more than 3.3m times, has been met with a range of surprised responses, with many acknowledging the impact the behaviours had on their own relationships.
“Wow where were you before I got married because you are so right,” one person commented, while another said: “This explains my breakup.”
Other commenters pointed out that they have seen relationships where all four are evident but the couple is still together, prompting Scot to acknowledge that “there is a difference between a couple that is still together and a couple that is happily together”.