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The Four Horsemen of the Romantic Relationship Apocalypse


Romantic relationships, like any other relationships in life, are important to fulfill one’s needs for intimacy and social connections. However, not all romantic relationships are about rainbows and butterflies. It also goes through periods and stages of development and deterioration. This article will explain The Four Horsemen of romantic relationships – the most common negative patterns and behaviors that might lead to relationships deterioration – and how to avoid and eliminate them.

The Four Horsemen

In Christianity, The Four Horsemen are symbols of the catastrophic effect of destruction that will come to earth at the end of time. They are conquest, war and bloodshed, famine, and death. Dr. John Gottman applies this concept of destruction into a romantic relationship and describes them as negative communication patterns that, if they keep on occurring, might result in a failed or a very unhappy relationship. For Gottman, these are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. 

  • Criticism

    Criticism is the first indicator of a growing problem in a romantic relationship that has the potential to ruin its foundation. According to Merriam-Webster, this is “the act of expressing disapproval and of noting the problems or faults of a person or thing”. It is different from a complaint; a complaint addresses the specific issue while criticism attacks the person’s characteristics. When criticism is omnipresent, it causes the victim to feel abused and hurt; constant criticism will escalate the pattern with increasing frequency and intensity which may lead to the next horseman.

  • Contempt

    The next horseman is contempt which is fueled by the long-simmering of unfavorable feelings and thoughts about a partner and undertaking a position of moral superiority over them. Contempt is the arrogant disdain, denigration, and dismissal of the other’s concerns. It involves sarcasm, name-calling, ridicule, and condescension, among other things. When a person communicates with contempt towards their partner, the receiver is made to feel discounted, despised, and worthless; it erodes self-esteem, confidence, and sense of self.

  • Defensiveness

    Defensiveness is typically a response to criticism. When an individual believes to be wrongfully accused by their partner, they look for justifications and play the innocent victim to get their partner to back off. Although it is normal for a person to protect themselves if they feel attacked, defensiveness might escalate the conflict and issue when the other person does not back down. This is because defensiveness is essentially reverse blaming the other partner, preventing a healthy conflict resolution.

  • Stonewalling

    The last and the fourth horseman is stonewalling or intentionally refusing to communicate. When someone stonewalls, it’s easy to assume that they’re angry, impolite, childish, or just uninterested in interacting with others or the world. Tuning out, turning away, pretending to be busy, or indulging in compulsive or diverting tasks are all examples of stonewalling behaviors.

    More criticism and contempt lead to more defensiveness; eventually, one person will withdraw. The individual who withdraws is usually overwhelmed and begins to shut down as means of self-soothing and calming down. While shutting down during an argument – or sometimes known as the silent treatment – is one method to cope, it can be cruel, irritating, and destructive to the relationship.

The Antidote

The first step to deal with and eliminate the four horsemen is to acknowledge them when they occur. The next step is to replace these unhealthy communication and conflict patterns and behaviors with productive, healthy ones.

  • The “I” statement

    Each partner can express how they feel and think using the “I” statement. This can be accomplished by avoiding the use of the word “you” which can imply blame. Instead, talk about feelings using “I” statements and express what is needed in a positive manner.

  • Appreciation and respect

    Creating a positive perspective in a relationship involves consistently expressing appreciation, gratitude, tenderness, and respect for each other. This will work as a buffer against negative feelings. The more positive one feels towards themselves, their partner, and the relationship, the less likely they are to feel or express contempt.

  • Invest in the Emotional Bank Account

    An Emotional Bank Account is like a financial bank account; instead of depositing or withdrawing money, couples do it with love, affection, and respect through their words and actions. In a six-year follow-up research of newlywed couples by the Gottman Institute, those who stayed married turned to their partner’s attempts for emotional connection 86% of the time in the lab, while those who divorced averaged at 33%. The difference lies in the way they managed their Emotional Bank Account. A way to maintain the balance of the Emotional Bank Account is by following the 5:1 ratio, which entails having five or more positive interactions for every negative interaction, even during disagreement and arguments.

  • Take time outs and self-soothe

    Allowing for timeouts during a conflict can help couples avoid feeling overwhelmed. If it feels like one partner is stonewalling during a conflict, they should stop the discussion and take a break. While taking a break, they should do something else that calms both down. Once both feel ready, the couple can return to the conversation and resolve the conflict in a calmer way.

Every relationship is not perfect. Each person’s actions and attitude toward it define and predict the health and success of the relationship. By acknowledging and working towards eliminating these horsemen, couples can progress towards building a deeply meaningful relationship that is full of trust and intimacy.

Why It is Time to Revisit the Sustainability Balanced Scorecard


Image source: Matt Jones | Unsplash

The world is moving towards a more sustainable business practice. Investors, advocacy groups, and academics have asked corporations to take on added purpose beyond the traditional pursuit of shareholder value. Even the business leaders from Business Roundtable stated that major companies are investing in their employees and communities because they realize it is the only way to achieve long-term success.

The fundamental concept behind this shift is the Triple Bottom Line (TBL), where companies must measure not only their financial performance but also their environmental and societal performance as well. The TBL concept is not new; the term had been coined by John Elkington in the 1990s. Later in 2003, Amanco pioneered in measuring the impact of its TBL strategy, building on the idea of Balanced Scorecard (BSC) from Kaplan and Norton. The new sustainability BSC included environmental and social dimensions in addition to the basic dimensions of the initial BSC.

In a recent article, Kaplan stated that the demands for sustainability today are even higher. In summary, there are three different perspectives from three main stakeholders categories:

  • Customers: The customers’ preferences in every product category shifted towards more sustainable products. Over the past five years, there is a 71% rise in online searches for sustainable goods globally in countries with either developed or emerging economies.
  • Employee: Reports of unsafe working conditions at Amazon warehouses caused many criticisms. Their employees protested for fair pay and COVID protection. This example reflects the importance of social and ethical issues. Fulfilled workers are more loyal and likely to stay compared to those who only work for a weekly paycheck. Worse, incidents like this would probably affect consumers’ perception badly and hurt the company’s brand image.
  • Environment and social: As more consumers demand transparency and accountability, companies must consider the environmental and social aspects in every decision they make. For example, major fashion brands are beginning to pay attention to the demand for more sustainable practices.

The stakeholders have always played an important role in the business ecosystem. But in today’s post-pandemic era, the stakeholders expect even more from companies in terms of environment (e.g., sustainability, health) and social (e.g., inclusive, ethics, social welfare) aspects. As with any crisis, there are chances to learn and make a positive difference.

This article aims to remind companies of the criticality of environment and social dimensions. Taking note of its importance, this might be the opportunity to revisit the idea of sustainability BSC. The sustainability BSC can be used as a groundwork for a future BSC that is environmentally, socially, and ethically responsible. For more on utilizing the Balanced Scorecard, The KPI Institute has developed the Certified Balanced Scorecard Management System Professional to help organizations maximize the tools’ potential.

How Money Contributes to Happiness


Finding happiness and having a purpose in life is a goal of many people. However, the concept of happiness is so broad that people can’t even begin to understand where they should start to look for it. People start to define their version of happiness and what could make them happy. Having a family, a successful career, and a big house are among the things that most people often associate with happiness. 

One of the most prominent aspects that are often associated with happiness is money or how much money people can make. One famous study from 2010 by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton even tried to test this hypothesis by measuring people’s level of happiness with their income. They found that the more money people make, the more they tend to have an increase in emotional wellbeing. In other words, as someone’s income increases, their wellbeing also increases.

However, this effect stops at a certain point. Once people make about $75,000 a year, their wellbeing stops increasing altogether. This study answers some people’s earlier questions about how important money is to happiness and how they can achieve it by making $75,000 a year.

However, a newer study in 2021 by Matthew Killingsworth contradicted this research. They found that a higher income above $75,000 can still positively affect people’s happiness and wellbeing. In this study, they also measured wellbeing in greater detail by using real-time assessment in asking participants how they are feeling at the moment instead of how they felt in the previous week or month. The result was that they found higher earners felt great and happy.

So, does that mean that people with low income can’t ever be happy? Researchers argue that, although money does play an important role in people’s overall happiness and satisfaction of life, it is also only a modest determinant of happiness. There are many ways how money can contribute to people’s happiness.

Increased comfort

Although money is not everything, it is a means to have a comfortable life. When you have enough money, you can have all your basic needs fulfilled. Living in a comfortable house, eating healthy food, having access to health care, and feeling secure and safe are things that everyone needs. You won’t be able to think about happiness or enjoyment when you are feeling hungry or cold and have no home to go to. 

This is in line with the NCHS data statistic that found people living in poverty were three times more likely to have depression. Another thing to highlight from Kahneman and Deaton’s research is that their participants are all American, so the living standard and income that they found is limited to them. An income of $75,00 a year might not be the threshold for everyone; it could vary, depending on the cost of living in a specific area and one’s interest. 

As long as you have enough money to fulfill your basic needs, then you are halfway there. Having more money to buy things that you like can increase your positive emotions and comfort. You can also use the money to hire help to do your household chores so you can have more time to spend with your friends and family which is also important for your wellbeing.

Control in life

From Killingsworth’s research, they found that control in life plays a significant impact on their respondent’s level of happiness. People who have a higher income are happier, partly because they have an increased sense of control over life. Moreover, a sense of control accounted for a 74% correlation between income and wellbeing. 

People that have more money can have more choices and options on how they want to live their life. For instance, having extra income can allow them to eventually afford a better housing arrangement or eat better meals. The more money one has, the more options become available to them.

However, it is also worth noting that making more money could also mean dealing with more pressure from work, leading to less time for socializing, and even lesser time for leisure and rest. So, the autonomy that you have by having more money might come with sacrificing other areas of your life. Therefore, you need to understand how much money is “enough” to avoid constantly chasing for more in exchange for the things that are more important in your life.

Value of money

How much money can bring you happiness also depends on how much value and meaning one puts into the amount of money one has. People who put a great emphasis on how money contributes to their happiness will feel happier when they have more money than people who don’t value money as much. A study found that for those living in rural areas, spending time with family, and having contact with nature are things that contributed to their level of happiness as opposed to those who live in a metropolis. 

However, with increasing income that is commonly found in industrialized countries, social and economic factors have a bigger impact on people’s level of happiness. This finding suggests that people’s perspectives on the importance of money will affect how much money they need to bring them joy and happiness. In contrast, people who put less value on money are happy in a comfortable, safe, and strong community; they feel free to enjoy life regardless of how much money they are making.

Instead of focusing more on how you can make more money, try to understand what you think money will bring to your life. Having more money may help you gain certain things that will bring you happiness and other positive emotions. It is important to note that money can’t buy all of the things that will make you happy; in fact, you might find another way to attain certain types of happiness even without money.

Experience vs material goods

How you spend your money is also crucial on how it can affect your happiness. Some people spend their money on material or tangible things like bags and jewelry, while others spend more on experiences like going on vacation or attending a concert. A 2014 research found that experiential purchases bring greater happiness than material goods because they can effectively improve social relationships, form an important part of one’s identity, and lead to fewer social comparisons than material purchases.

Aside from that, a poll in 2014 also supports this research where they found that millennials prefer to spend their money on experiences than on material goods. However, this can’t be applied to anyone. For some people, material goods can bring them a lot of happiness if they have a very strong affinity for them. The main point is that spending money on experiences or material goods could increase wellbeing because it can fill one’s higher psychological needs like connectedness and a feeling of being alive.

Be it experience or material things, you need to understand why you feel they can bring you happiness. One does not better than the other because, in the end, it is still spending vs. spending. So, before you spend your money, ask yourself why you need a certain thing and what you can get from purchasing it. 


A lot of evidence suggests that having more money will bring more happiness. However, money will not inevitably increase your happiness. The way you perceive, spend, and how much you value money will shape how much happiness you can get from it. How much money a person needs to be happy varies depending on how much to cover their basic needs and what can bring them joy without sacrificing other important aspects in one’s life such as time or rest. Whether it is a concert ticket or a new pair of shoes, ultimately money can increase your happiness if you spend it on experiences or items that are aligned with your values.

The Digital Age and Information Disorders: What Makes You Vulnerable?


Image source: Buffik | Pixabay

The internet has become the primary source of information for people around the world. According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 53% of US adults rely on social media for news, with 36% depending on Facebook as a regular source. Meanwhile, YouTube comes in second place with 23%, followed by Twitter with 15%.

New social technologies have accelerated information sharing, providing easy access to huge amounts of information. Despite that, internet-based media is also characterized by unregulated information flow and the spread of deceiving, inaccurate, and uncheckable information. 

Inaccurate and deceptive information is often manipulative and used to evoke suspicion, fear, worry, and anger. Misleading information, created with or without intent, is designed to be sensational and provoking with an aim to attract attention and profit off panic and fears. Research shows that false information tends to spread farther and faster; while fake news brings about emotions like fear and disgust, people are inclined to find false news more novel than factual news. 

Misinformation is a widespread problem. However, psychological explanations of information processing can help avoid falling into the trap of misinformation and build mental resilience by embracing a more critical and skeptical approach. It is important because individual and societal wellbeing is related to having an accurate picture of social reality.

Let’s first acknowledge what contributes to the pervasiveness of misinformation on the internet-based media.

The problem with the internet-based media

Digital media has allowed individuals to be active in content production, leading to a wide range of personalities and opinions appearing on online platforms. One of its drawbacks is the absence of assurance regarding content quality and credibility. 

Digital transformation of media platforms has enabled algorithms and automation to govern content recommendation and filtering of information. In other words, not every user on social media receives the same news feed. As such, the algorithmic selection of social media sourced news plays a role in the creation of an echo effect in which users encounter information that resonates with their opinions and beliefs.

The term echo chambers is coined to describe the exposure people have only to opinions that they agree with on social media. This is regardless of being true or false. In turn, their opinions and preferences are being amplified.

Cognitive biases of information processing

The accuracy of information found on social media platforms is often unclear. Additionally, echo chambers limit users’ ability to encounter content that might challenge their opinions. Due to these two factors, the responsibility to evaluate the information’s credibility and make decisions now falls on the user and their conscious efforts to do this task. However, perceived credibility is not free from one’s interpretations and preformed notions. How users select reliable sources of information and evaluate their credibility presents new challenges in internet-based media. 

Cognitive processes are involved in making a judgment while cognitive biases determine what information is accepted or rejected. Cognitive biases and faulty reasoning in processing certain information can influence one’s decision-making. This may make information seekers vulnerable to misinformation. 

Information processing is influenced by one’s preexisting beliefs which connect to confirmation bias as it plays a role in shaping information consumption patterns. Confirmation bias consists of three components: information search, evidence interpretation, and memory recall. These three components are often biased in support of one’s previously held beliefs, expectations, and preferences for information that complies with their attitudes and justifies their opinions.

People unconsciously may engage in biased search processes to seek out information that supports their preconceptions about a certain topic. Biased searching for supportive information may result in poor decision-making. Information that confirms and reinforces users’ preexisting beliefs may be interpreted as being more persuasive. Simply put, confirmation bias means actively seeking confirmatory evidence.

As a result, users may end up outweighing positive confirmatory evidence without questioning the credibility and even refute or ignore evidence if it challenges their beliefs. Confirmation bias may also become salient when people rely on their background knowledge and experiences in information processing. 

Bias blind spot is another form of cognitive bias. It refers to recognizing biases that other people have in their judgments while believing that one is free from their own biases. If you are likely to detect the existence of biases in others more than in yourself, it might be a good idea to do some self-reflection first.


Neither echo chambers nor confirmation bias can be eliminated completely; however, through digital wellbeing skills, their impact can be managed. The use of social media as a source of information presents both benefits and challenges; whether it maximizes or diminishes an individual’s wellbeing benefits depends on the user’s media consumption and online behaviors. Checking one’s own cognitive biases is one way towards enhancing wellbeing. Being aware of confirmation bias and taking steps to perform a critical stance towards one’s preexisting beliefs and preconceptions can be achieved by performing critical thinking and learning how to learn. 

Being conscious consumers of digital media is a way to manage challenges and optimize one’s wellbeing as a result of online behaviors. To better equip an individual from the negative impacts, developing digital wellbeing skills can help in controlling stress resulting from the overwhelming flow of (mis)information and communication overabundance. This is done by efficiently filtering one’s attention to focus on one’s personal goals and wellbeing.

The Age of Online Shopping and Its Impact as Clutter


The popularity of online shopping platforms has contributed greatly to the global market. A 2021 survey saw Amazon as the biggest online shopping platform in the world, with a market capitalization of nearly USD 1.735 billion, due to the platform’s reliable and easy access on a domestic and international level. On the national level, for example in Indonesia, local e-commerce platforms such as Tokopedia and Shopee are also thriving. 

In light of COVID-19, social distancing protocols have been implemented by limiting access to public facilities, including malls and other offline marketplaces, driving people to online shopping. In Indonesia alone, it was found that online shopping habits among Indonesians during the second quarter of 2020 had increased around 18% compared to the previous year.  While such a habit is continuously becoming a part of the economy to provide consumers with comfort and convenience, the question is how much of it will affect their living environment and end up as clutter?

Problems with online shopping

Prior study has shown that impulsive buying is among the negative aspects of online shopping. Shoppers may feel addicted to the process of shopping and experience constant cravings but tend to neglect the consequences of it. Several factors that may stimulate underlying this behavior are as follows:

  • Tailored advertisements

    Have you ever noticed that every time you browse the internet, there is always a pop-up advertisement showing an item that speaks to your interests even though you are not specifically searching for it at the moment? Does it make you wonder if the internet is reading your mind? Actually, the interconnectedness within the internet enables algorithms to read your preferences across platforms and predict content that you may be interested in.

    For instance, if you just finished looking for a new backpack on Amazon then move to check your Instagram account, you may see backpack advertisements showing on the homepage. This is an intuitive way to help consumers in finding exactly what they need. However, the downside is that it could also induce more cravings as you are exposed to diverse options that may leave you wanting to purchase only one model of the same item.

  • Seasonal sales and promotions

    Discounted prices have become the main attraction of online marketplaces. In the case of Indonesia, it is very common for online shopping platforms to offer big discounts and special promotions on certain dates of the month like holiday sales. You can get a branded product for as much as 75% discount for selected items — a temptation for most consumers. The sale usually starts at midnight, but this does not stop people who still make time to toss their luck and race to get the items they desire with the cheapest deal.

    This phenomenon continues to shape a mindset of pseudo-scarcity. Even though the products are always in stock, consumers may have a mindset that big sales will not come twice. This motivates consumers to buy more regardless of whether they actually need it or not, which eventually ends up as clutter.

  • Fear of missing out

    A 2020 survey among Indonesian online shoppers found that 70% of respondents saw reviews made by other customers as very beneficial in helping them choose the best products to buy. This complements the perception that online shoppers rely much on product reviews, especially for products on beauty and cosmetics wherein the market is heavily determined by the customer’s experience and opinion on the internet. The role of social media influencers and celebrities in advertising these products also adds to the public’s curiosity.

    This leads some to experience a fear of missing out if they do not participate in the trend despite the possibility of some products not being suitable for them. Hence, some purchases made for the sake of keeping up with a certain trend may end up as clutter. These products may overfill your drawers and expire before you even get a chance to use them.

  • Online ‘retail therapy’

    Online shopping provides the comfort of purchasing items with the convenience of being a click away from having items delivered right to your doorstep. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this habit is used as a way to cope with the limitation and emotional charges resulting from the obligation to always stay indoors. People filled up their homes with items they bought online until they realized that it was not an effective way to bring pleasure; as a result, these items turned into clutter that overran their living space, regardless of the size of their home.

    Aside from accumulating unnecessary items, boxes used to ship items may also end up as clutter. Think about the time when you receive a big package for one small item. Oftentimes, a product can come in a box that is three times bigger than the item you purchased. Due to this, you might find yourself with a house overflowing with boxes that you do not need and add more stress than you originally had.

Managing clutter from online shopping

Excessive purchases resulting from uncontrolled online shopping habits potentially threaten your home with clutter, especially if you do not take immediate action to make a change of habit. While clutter is often considered trivial, it has some serious side effects that some may not realize, such as reducing one’s wellbeing. Here are several ways to combat the clutter problem as a consequence of online shopping:

  • Stick to a shopping list and a budget

    It sounds cliche, but developing a straightforward shopping list and budget is highly effective to keep you on your toes. Having a list you can regularly monitor will help you to avoid overspending while identifying the items that you can actually afford. There are a lot of mobile apps that can offer such functionality; some are even designed specifically for groceries, clothes, electronics, and so on.

    Apart from that, decide how much you are going to allocate for your daily, weekly, and monthly spending and commit to it. Prioritize your expense for daily needs over temporary cravings. You can also set a separate bank account for non-essential purchases to help you stay on budget.

  • Create an interval between purchases

    An alternative to holding yourself accountable for your purchase is making a fixed interval from the current purchase to the next one. By applying shopping intervals, you can also get a sense of what is essential to you and what you simply want. You can adapt a 3, 7, 14, or 30-day interval, depending on your needs. You can also utilize a reminder app on your phone to make sure you will not forget the last time you ordered something online.

  • Consider the availability of space in your house

    It is important to analyze the current state of your living space before deciding to make a new purchase. In order to avoid impulsive buying, ask yourself these questions:

    1. Where are you going to place it?

    2. Do you have adequate space to store it?

    3. Do you already have similar items that you can continue to use instead?

    4. What would you do with items you already have if you buy a new one?

    You might be interested in certain products, but not necessarily need them. If you cannot pinpoint a clear purpose for buying them, it is better to not go for it.

  • Implement the ‘One In One Out’ rule

    The emphasis on this rule is exchanging an old item for a new one. If there is a desire to acquire a new item, a similar item from the house must be discarded. According to Francine Jay, author of The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify, this is when the rule has the most impact. Letting go is extremely beneficial when decluttering to prevent you from bringing in more items that might become clutter in your home.

    An example would be that for every new purchase of a t-shirt, an old t-shirt must go. You may also want to pay attention to the ratio between related categories of items such as having more shirts than pants. One good option is discarding an old shirt when buying a new pair of pants. In this way, releasing your belongings will also allow you to discover the items that you genuinely cherish.

  • Recycle or upcycle shipping boxes

    Diverse options could be taken to process unused shipping boxes at home. One simple way is to break down or flatten cardboard boxes and put them in the recycle bin to be processed further. Do not forget to remove your personal details, such as your full name, home address, and phone number on the box to avoid others from using your information for unauthorized purposes.

    Another alternative would be to reuse these boxes to store your clutter. For example, you can put clothes and books you want to donate or sell in those boxes. In this way, you also get to save money from buying a new container.

Mindful shopping habits are necessary to be developed as a preventive measure from unnecessarily shopping online and adding clutter. Buying items may give you temporary pleasure, but consider its impact on your living space. By raising awareness for yourself and those around you, you can build precautions to avoid clutter from online shopping in your home.


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