Unless you married your first love, it's likely that by now most of us have experienced a break-up that we just didn't see coming. Whether you thought your relationship had hit a rocky patch but didn't feel it was 'that bad', or you were just totally unaware of how your partner was feeling, a surprise breakup is difficult to deal with.
Which might be why a TikTok video by user @AlexScot, explaining the four indicators that a relationship might be on the rocks, has already racked up almost four million views and over half a million likes and comments.
Alex's video refers to the 'four horseman' theory; a series of communication issues in romantic relationships that shouldn’t be ignored. The relationship coach explains that these the four indicators within the theory are 'statistically proven' to predict the demise of a couple.
'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,' Alex says, before going on to explain that the first indicator is communicating with contempt:
'Contempt is when you talk down to your partner as if you are superior and they are less than.
'Saying something like "I learned how to tell time when I was five – when are you ever going to learn?" is very contemptuous and not okay.'
The second horseman, which can often come hand-in-hand with contempt, is defensiveness.
'So for example if your partner brings up something they don’t like and you respond in defence of that behaviour instead of hearing them out and being open to changing', Alex explains.
In order for a relationship to thrive, all involved parties need to be open to the fact that they won’t always get it right.
The next one is a relationship pillar that’s become normalised during times of struggle – also known as, the silent treatment.
Alex continues: 'Number three is stonewalling, also known as the silent treatment. Kind of self-explanatory.'
The last indicator is about how to communicate issues to each other – the key is to focus specifically on the incident that went wrong, rather than on your partner as a whole which can be unhealthy and escalate the situation.
'The last horseman is criticism. There’s a difference between criticising your partner’s character or behaviour on the whole – such as "You never help out around the house" – versus criticising something that took place specifically, an event or situation – "I’m frustrated that the trash hasn’t been taken out yet".'
It's important to note though that although the above indicators do need to be paid attention to – and require both parties to become more self-aware if they want to fix the communication between them – they can be worked on and don't necessarily mean that your relationship is heading for disaster.
If you identify with any of the above, then writer Emma Shearwood has the perfect 'communication trick' to help you bridge that gap and get back on track, you can check out her 'marriage secret' here.
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