In marriage therapy terms, we see contempt as a moral superiority over one's partner. Basically, if you're contemptuous, you see yourself as better than your partner and as having the 'moral' high ground…
And it’s on to the next one. Stonewalling, my friends. This is the third horseman of the four. This one is pretty interesting, though, in that there’s some physiology that’s at play.
This is the long and short of what happens.
Partners A and B start having a discussion with heart rates around 70 beats per minute (average). It shifts into a conflict discussion/argument/disagreement. Partner A’s heart rate jumps to 80 beats per minute the second the conversation heats up. Partner B’s heart rate has gone up to about 74.
Think of a time when you felt attacked. Maybe it was by your partner, maybe it was by a stranger, family, your boss or coworker, or a friend - it doesn't really matter who did it. The point is this. Take yourself back to that time and recall what it felt like in that moment.
When we talk about the four horsemen, we're not talking about the apocalypse. We're talking about four styles of communication that, when present within relationships, predict the eventual dissolution of that relationship.