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Gudrun Zomerland, MFT, CCPS
Licensed Marriage
and Family Therapist
MFC #27617
405 Chinn Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Email Gudrun

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Articles by
Gudrun Zomerland:

Addiction and

shame as a defense mechanism Shame as Self-Care
internet pornography addiction The Dangers of
Internet Porn
teen drug alcohol addiction Non-Violent Communication and its Relevance for Codependents
teen drug alcohol additction Teen Addiction:
An Open Letter
prescription drug abuse Prescription Drug Abuse
windsor alcohol and chemical dependency treatment The Core of Co-Dependency
santa rosa counselor for depression and anxiety Co-Dependent Characteristics
childhood trauma and post traumatic stress support H.A.L.T.: A Self-Care Tool
family and couples counseling in sonoma county The Family Member in Denial


treatment for trauma from domestic violence and spousal abuse Non-Violent Communication and its Relevance for Codependents
attachment disorders in adult relationships Attachment in Adult Relationships
healthy communication skills in adult relationships and marriage Getting to Know Your Emotions
sonoma county marriage counselor Communication Skills for Couples - 101
treatment options for alcoholism and drug addiction in marin county Differentiation, or What Makes Relationships Work
santa rosa psychotherapist treating depression and anxiety John Gottman's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

General Topics:

narcissism Rapunzel, Daughter of a
Closet Narcissist
psychotherapy for trauma Trauma: The Shaking Of A Soul
shame as a defense mechanism Shame as Self-Care
narcissistic parents and conarcissistic children Narcissism and Co-Narcissism
counseling for sexual abuse trauma in northern california Sexual Abuse Guidelines
rohnert park PTSD post traumatic stress disorder therapy Book Review:
"Stop Gaining Weight"
The Body Never Lies by Alice Miller and Hidden in Plain Sight by Barry Grosskopf Is Forgiving Our Parents Necessary for Mental Health?
overcoming fear and phobia through psychotherapy Fear of Fear
counseling for gay and lesbian couples in sonoma and marin county Living with the Light and Dark Sides of Life




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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"

by Gudrun Zomerland, MFT

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. He bases his predictions on four potentially destructive communication styles and coping mechanisms: (1) harsh startup, (2) the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, (3) flooding, and (4) body language. In this synopsis I will focus on the Four Horsemen.

The Four Horsemen are a metaphor depicting the end of times in the New 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. Criticizing our partner is different than offering a critique or having a complaint. The latter two are about specific issues, whereas the former attacks our partner at the core. In effect, we are dismantling his or her whole being when we criticize.

Example: "I was scared when you were running late and didn't call me. I thought we had agreed that we would do that for each other" is a complaint. "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" is a criticism.

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.

Example: "I've been with the kids all day, running around like mad to keep this house going and all you do, when you come home from work, is to flop down on that sofa and become a couch potato. You are just about the sorriest excuse for a husband I can think of."

The third horseman is defensiveness. This is an easy one to fall into. We feel accused of something and think that, if we tell our partner our excuse for doing what we did, he or she will back off. But the excuse just tells our partner that we haven't considered anything he or she has said. Basically, by defending ourselves we are ignoring our partner.

Example: She: "Did you call Betty and Ralph to let them know that we are not coming tonight as you said this morning you would?" He: "I was just too darn 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 nondefensive response would have been: "Oooops, 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 (usually they tend to accumulate) with our partner, we make evasive maneuvers such as tuning out, turning away, being busy or engaging in obsessive behaviors. We simply stop engaging in the business of relating to another person.

My experience as couples counselor for the past 16 years has validated what Dr. Gottman's research has shown. When all four horsemen are active and alive in a relationship, it is most likely too late to turn it around. I believe when the latter two, defensiveness and stonewalling are present, your relationship has a chance to survive if you seek outside help such as couples counseling. In order to change the first two horsemen, criticism and contempt, the person who engages in them really needs individual counseling because the attack on another person's worth usually stems from childhood wounds such as parental criticism, shaming, belittling or excessive demands. Feel free to call me for a free 20-minute phone consultation or to set up a regular appointment.

Visit Dr. Gottman's website at

"The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work" is available at
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Gudrun Zomerland specializes in relationship and marriage counseling in northern california