The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Based on John Gottman's, PhD, Relationship Research Adapted from his book "The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work"
Dr. John Gottman can predict with 96% accuracy within the first three minutes of a couple having a conversation whether the relationship he is watching will survive over the long-haul or not. Dr. John Gottman, a psychologist at the University of Washington, studied more than
2,000 married couples over two decades. He discovered patterns about how partners relate to each other which can be used to predict – with 94% accuracy – which marriages will succeed and which will fail. Gottman says that each horseman paves the way for the next.
The Four Horsemen are a metaphor depicting the end of times in the Old Testament. They describe conquest, war, hunger, and death respectively. Dr. Gottman uses this metaphor to describe communication styles that can predict the end of a relationship.
The first horseman in a relationship is criticism. Criticism is the act of finding fault or judging unfavorably. When you criticize your partner, you attack your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making yourself right and your partner wrong. Criticism includes generalizations such as “you always…”, “you never…” and “you’re the type of person who …”
Example: "You never think about how your behavior is affecting other people. I don't believe you are that forgetful; you just don't think about me."
The second horseman is contempt. When we communicate from this state, we are being mean, treating others with disrespect by using sarcasm, ridicule, name-calling, and/or body language such as eye-rolling. The partner feels despised and worthless. Contempt is toxic and cannot be replaced with anything. It must be eliminated. Contempt is a feeling of disdain or scorn. Contempt attacks your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him/her.
Example: "I've been with the kids all day, running around like mad to keep this house going and you come home and just park yourself in front of the TV. You are just useless."
The third horseman is defensiveness. This is an easy one to fall into. Defensiveness is seeing yourself as the victim and warding off a perceived attack. When partners are defensive they are not open to learning and are also not able to access the vulnerable feelings underneath. Some typical defensive responses are:
- Making excuses (e.g., external circumstances beyond your control forced you to act in a certain way) “It’s not my fault…”, “I didn’t…”
- Cross-complaining: meeting your partner’s complaint, or criticism with a complaint of your own, ignoring what your partner said.
- Disagreeing and then cross-complaining “That’s not true, you’re the one who …”
- Yes-butting: start off agreeing but end up disagreeing.
- Repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying.
- Whining “It’s not fair.”
Example: Meredith: "Did you call Alex and Izzie to let them know that we are not coming tonight as you said this morning you would?" Derek: "I was too busy today. As a matter of fact you knew how busy my schedule was. Why didn't you just do it?" He not only responds defensively but turns the table and makes it her fault. A non-defensive response would have been: "I forgot. I should have asked you this morning to do it because I knew my day would be packed. Let me call them right now."
The fourth horseman is stonewalling. When we stonewall, we avoid conflict either because we are unconscious of our own feelings or because we are afraid. Rather than confronting the issues with our partner, we make evasive maneuvers and simply stop engaging in the business of relating to another person. Stonewalling is withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. Partners may think they are trying to be “neutral” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness. Some typical stonewall responses are stony silence, monosyllabic mutterings, changing the subject and removing yourself physically. Stonewalling is considered to be the most “dangerous” of the four horsemen.
Example: Izzie leaving town and cutting off all communication with her husband, Alex.
(See http://www.gottman.com/ for more information on Dr. John Gottman.)
An important factor in fiction writing is tension, in which the author creates a sense of urgency. Tension grabs the reader’s attention and refuses to let go, sucking her (or him) into the rhythm of the story. Although tension in fiction writing should ebb and flow good authors remember to convey tension through dialogue. (Showing vs. Telling)
Many novice writers use dialogue as nothing more than a reprieve from narration. Their characters talk but the story isn’t propelled forward and the depths of character motivations aren’t revealed because of it. An effective writer, however, uses dialogue to establish something between characters, often to create the tension necessary to build suspense.
Tension is created by planting questions in the reader’s mind. For example, in the popular Grey’s Anatomy series, the questions would be: Can Meredith help Cristina do heart surgery again? How will she manage to help her friend and not be cut from the residency program? In a romance novel, the general question is: how will the hero and heroine overcome their obstacles and find happiness together? The smaller questions each scene plants in the reader’s mind are what keep the tension high and the pages turning.
Alison Kent explains how to create great tension in her book Writing Erotic Romance. She wrote, “Think of each scene as a rung on a ladder that reaches into the unknown…The higher you climb, the greater the danger of falling, and the greater the fear of what awaits at the top. All this adds to your story’s dramatic tension and keeps you reader on the edge of her seat.” So each action, each complication should bring the hero or heroine one step up the emotional ladder and make failure even more dangerous.
Award-winning author, Gail Gaymer Martin gives more insights about creating tension in her blog. (See http://tinyurl.com/yza3mmc for part one and http://tinyurl.com/yzlwpcb for part two of her Tension and Conflict articles.) You can also visit her web site at http://www.gailmartin.com/.
Thoughts on Alpha Males
When I create my characters, I don't think in terms of labels. I don't say, okay, I need an alpha male or a beta male; I just create a human being. I think about the environment my character was raised in and let their upbringing play an important part in establishing their personality. There are quite a few personality traits we as individuals are born with so I start with a base and then let past experiences mold them.
It’s easy to love reading about a sexy alpha hero, but all of us can use a little help in writing one. For all you aspiring authors out there draw your attention to a blog event Kate Walker featured on her website called All About Alphas in May 2009.
She wrote, “The alpha doesn’t get to his position if life by trampling weaker people under foot, he isn’t totally lacking in charm or generosity or a sense of humor. He doesn’t act brutally, ruthlessly, relentlessly except when the circumstances demand it of him, when he can see no other possible choice, when the only strategy is one that he feels he has no alternative but to follow because of the way that the challenge is presented to him. This is how he feels he, with his personal code of honor, must act - and that personal code may give him the conviction that he’s on the right path – at first - but as he goes through the story that conviction is challenged and has to adjust, adapt and finally be thrown overboard as he realizes that he is working from the wrong page.
He is not anti-women, or cruel for the sake of it. He is in a situation where he may have to act that way in the circumstances. The information he has been given about the woman he is dealing with – his heroine – may be flawed, inaccurate – but he believes it is right and that he is justified in acting on it.” (See http://www.kate-walker.com/ for more details.)
So here’s what I know about people, we have beliefs and values that control how we live our lives. The so-called alpha men in the Sherdian Series values freedom and adventure over security and safety. In fact, Latrell sees security as something to stay away from. To him, security might mean being tied down. And confinement or loss of independence is pretty scary to someone who's learned to depend solely on himself.
In the same vain, Graham, another Sheridan alpha male, sees openness and emotional sharing as other values to avoid. He has learned through experience to believe that being emotional -- to reveal his emotions -- is often viewed as being weak. So he believes if he reveals his weaknesses, he’ll leave himself open to attack. Either physically, emotionally, financially, whatever -- if he allows his weaknesses to show, he's setting himself up to be hurt. History has validated this theory for him.
For me, alpha males aren’t insensitive. They just have thicker skin that they try very hard to maintain so no one can get too close. And as a writer, it’s so much fun to prove them wrong.
I just came across an essay I wanted to share with you. It was written by novelist Alexander Chee and she recounts being taught by Annie Dillard, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author at Wesleyan University. (See http://tinyurl.com/ykwfzoq).
I have to say reading it took me back to my college days at Stockton when Professors Ken Tompkins and Tom Kinsella raised my level of writing. Both believed that writers should only write what is absolutely necessary to make your point. Not a word more. All the while remembering the best writing — even in the Information Age — is both poetic and effective, concise and deep. Conciseness pierces the mind; art opens the mind and melts the heart.
Man, it’s amazing the things that jog your memory. I’m learning the essence of writing romance fiction but I had forgotten the wisdom these men imparted from the halls of academia. I have to find a way to marry the two. I have to create characters readers will care about, while forging a bond with poetic concrete detail and make them care.
Care enough to keep reading late into the night when they know they should go to sleep. Care enough to visit this website and ask me when the next novel will be published. Care enough to employ me to tell a sub-characters story because it was intriguing.
Please take a moment to read Chee’s essay about Dillard (posted above) and this one posted at http://tinyurl.com/ygt7lqk. Learn, Grow and Enjoy!
I've learned that we don't have to change friends if we understand that friends change.
I've learned that no matter how good a friend is, they're going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.
I've learned that true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance. The same goes for true love.
I've learned that you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.
I've learned that it's taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.
I've learned that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.
I've learned that you can keep going long after you can't.
I've learned that we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.
I've learned that either you control your attitude or it controls you.
I've learned that regardless of how hot and steamy a relationship is at first, the passion fades and there had better be something else to take its place.
I've learned that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.
I've learned that money is a lousy way of keeping score.
I've learned that my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time.
I've learned that sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you're down, will be the ones to help you get back up.
I've learned that sometimes when I'm angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn't give me the right to be cruel.
I've learned that just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to doesn't mean they don't love you with all they have.
I've learned that maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you've had and what you've learned from them, and less to do with how many years you have lived
I've learned that it isn't always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.
I've learned that no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn't stop for your grief.
I've learned that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.
I've learned that just because two people argue, it doesn't mean they don't love each other And just because they don't argue, it doesn't mean they do love each other.
I've learned that you shouldn't be so eager to find out a secret. It could change your life forever.
I've learned that two people can look at the same thing and see something totally different.
I've learned that your life can be changed in a matter of hours by people who don't even know you.
I've learned that even when you think you have no more to give, when a friend cries out to you will find the strength to help.
I've learned that credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.
I've learned that the people you care about most in life are sometimes taken from you too soon.
(Many thanks to the friend that email this t
Nan Robertson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter who wrote a book about female employees' fight for equal treatment at the newspaper, has died. She was 83.
Robertson died Tuesday of heart disease at a nursing home in Rockville, said Jane Freundel Levey, her stepdaughter-in-law.
The veteran reporter won a 1983 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for a personal piece — an unsparing account of her sudden encounter with toxic shock syndrome. The article, published in The New York Times Magazine, detailed how the illness led to the amputation of the end joints of all her fingers except for her thumbs.
See Washington Post article at http://tinyurl.com/yjzde7x for more details.
A Recipe for Golden Heart Success
I just finished reading a blog on A Recipe for Golden Heart Success by Darynda Jones. I wish she would have written this when I was wondering about entering the Golden Heart. She gives great advice so I really don’t want to butcher it by trying to summarize it here (see http://tinyurl.com/yledn7p).
Jones is the Winner of the 2009 Golden Heart® for Best Paranormal Romance for her manuscript FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT so she knows a few things about trying to place in this pretentious contest.
The Golden Heart contest judges approximately 1,200 romance manuscripts each year by writers who have not accepted a publishing offer for original fictional narrative prose of 20,000+ words. Writers enter their romance novel manuscript in one of 10 contest categories. In the preliminary round, the manuscripts are read and judged by General RWA members, who narrow the field down to approximately 100 finalists.
The final round of the contest is judged by romance publishing houses editors. Many Golden Heart finalists are able to sell their manuscripts to publishers as a result of the exposure from the contest. Romance Writers of America (RWA) announces the Golden Heart winners at the Awards Ceremony at the Annual RWA Conference.
Please take a moment to read Mrs. Jones’ blog and learn more about what it takes final in the Golden Heart contest. You can learn more about Darynda Jones and her works at http://www.daryndajones.com/.
I'm Back and Grateful
Hi everyone, I’m back from my vacation and thankful for everything I’ve learned about myself and my relationships with others. I was able to extend my heart beyond my doubts and let God direct my footsteps in order to gain wisdom. I’m tremendously grateful for the opportunities.
I was also able to do some good editing, visit a great sushi place in Delaware, and spend time with friends and family so I’m ready to bury myself in my writing. I entered The 21st Emily contest hosted by the West Houston RWA so I need to expand North Star before December. Yep, that’s right. I need to take a novel that I’ve completed and re-written several times and now add 100 pages.
It’s a little funny because I remember cutting so much text from North Star because I wanted it to be a contemporary series but the story still has some plot holes that need to be filled. For instance, Graham and Caresse battled many obstacles to be together but I don’t think I actually revealed the depths of Caresse anguish due to Graham’s betrayal. I know I can write this part of the story now and I pray that I’m able to give the readers a sense of Caresse’s motivation to love in the face of great odds.
I know this writing will be cathartic because it will force me to look at painful experiences though the eyes of Caresse. I’m not sure if she’ll respond the way I would or if her anguish will push my novel into a new direction but I guess that’s the wonderful thing about writing novels… sometimes the characters drive the story more than the author.
Well, I hope I haven’t lost some fans because I failed to blog regularly. I was trying to take a leap of faith in an area of my life that needed me to be fearless. Was I successful? Well, only God knows for sure. I truly hope all of you are living your own romance stories that affirm true love is attainable because if we stop believing in love… so will our children.
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