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The Four Horsemen & Their Antidotes

Criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. These are the four horsemen—damaging behaviors that escalate conflict and erode a relationship. If left unchecked, the four horsemen solidify themselves in a relationship as a normal part of communication.

Antidotes are communication skills, relaxation techniques, and other strategies that counteract the four horsemen. Each of the antidotes is designed to replace one of the horsemen and reduce conflict.

The Four Horsemen & Their Antidotes worksheet summarizes each of the damaging behaviors and their healthy replacements in a simple, easy-to-follow format. The descriptions include enough information to serve as a reminder or quick reference without being overwhelming.

This handout benefits from being paired with other tools. Skills referenced in this worksheet include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and “I” statements.

For a fun activity focused on relationship growth and exploration, try our interactive Couple's Questions tool:

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1. Gottman, J. M. (2008). Gottman method couple therapy. Clinical handbook of couple therapy, 4(8), 138-164.

2. McNelis, M., & Segrin, C. (2019). Insecure attachment predicts history of divorce, marriage, and current relationship status. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 60(5), 404-417.

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