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conflict resolution strategies in marriage

7 Gottman-Approved Ways To Resolve Conflicts In Marriage

Conflict is inevitable and a normal part of marriage. But don’t assume that every spat or disagreement means your love story is spiraling toward its final chapter. If you implement the right conflict resolution strategies in marriage, you can turn disagreements into opportunities for deeper understanding and a stronger relationship.

Here at The Relationship Place, we follow the ways of  Dr. John Gottman, a world-renowned psychologist and relationship expert, know for his studies about divorce prediction and marital stability. He believes that,“Although we might associate minimal conflict with marital bliss, the true magic lies in how couples navigate those unavoidable storms.”

So, before you throw in the towel, it’s best to learn how to turn those disputes into opportunities to strengthen your marriage. Read on to learn Gottman’s conflict resolution strategies in marriage.

Engage in an Open Dialogue About It

When conflicts arise, it’s tempting to sweep them under the rug, hoping they’ll fade away. But as the Gottman Institute says, silence in marriage is destructive as wounds remain hidden. Eventually, the lack of open, honest communication slowly erodes your relationship’s emotional safety and intimacy.

Opening up, especially after a disagreement, can be a game-changer. This doesn’t mean merely talking at each other; it’s about engaging in meaningful, open dialogue. So, what should this open dialogue look like?

First, timing is crucial. Choose a moment when both of you are calm and free from distractions. Initiating a conversation immediately after an argument might not always yield productive results, as emotions are still raw.

Before diving into your feelings and perspectives, seek to understand your partner’s viewpoint. Ask open-ended questions like, “How did you feel when that happened?” or “What was going through your mind?” This shows your partner that you genuinely care about their feelings and perspective.

Next, express your feelings without casting blame. Use ‘I’ statements such as “I felt hurt when you said that” instead of “You always hurt me.”

This approach minimizes defensiveness and opens up the floor for a genuine conversation. Lastly, instead of dwelling on what went wrong, brainstorm ways to prevent similar conflicts in the future.

conflict resolution strategies in marriage
Opening up, especially after a disagreement, can be a game-changer.

Seek to Understand

Often, conflicts arise not from the core issue itself but from misunderstandings that spiral out of control. This is where the power of mindful or active listening comes into play. Instead of getting defensive, try to understand where your partner is coming from.

When navigating a conflict, the first principle of active listening is approaching your partner with genuine curiosity and setting aside preconceived notions. One contributor from the Gottman Institute  observes, “If you arrive in conflict assuming that you already know exactly how another person is thinking and feeling, you close yourself off from discovering something new about your partner’s perspective.” So, the next time you find yourself in disagreement, press pause, lean in, and truly listen.

Mindful listening during a conflict also requires you to cultivate heart-centeredness. In the midst of a disagreement with a loved one, consider pausing and centering yourself: close your eyes, take a deep breath, and focus your awareness on your heart for up to a minute.

You prioritize mutual understanding by consciously connecting with your love for the person. Upon returning to the conversation, you’ll likely find the atmosphere has transformed, now filled with calm and understanding.

Soften Your Startup

You know those moments when an argument kicks off and, before you know it, the tone is set for a fierce battle? A six-year longitudinal study led by Dr. Gottman showed that the initial approach to a disagreement often dictates the trajectory of the entire conversation. The way you introduce a contentious topic to your partner can either open the door to productive dialogue or shut it entirely.

The key is to soften that startup. Instead of leading with accusations or negative assumptions, try framing your concerns in a non-confrontational manner.

Imagine saying, “I felt a bit overwhelmed with the house chores today; could we discuss how to share them?” instead of, “You never help around the house!” The former invites a calm, solution-focused discussion, while the latter can trigger defensiveness and escalate the conflict.

Softening your startup ensures that your approach to a disagreement is as gentle and understanding as your intent for resolution. It’s about paving a smoother path for both of you, one that leads to mutual understanding rather than further conflict.

Repair and De-escalate

Conflicts, big or small, can stir up a whirlwind of emotions. In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say things you might regret or let tensions escalate to unmanageable levels. But as Dr. Dana McNeil says in a guest contribution for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, “Couples who experience these rough patches also have the potential to work through the issues and come out stronger and more ‘in love’ than ever before.”

One strategy to achieve this outcome is to apply Gottman’s ‘repair and de-escalate’ principle in managing conflict. That means actively seeking moments to apologize, clarify misunderstandings, or simply extend an olive branch.

Sometimes, this could mean acknowledging that emotions are too charged for productive dialogue and suggesting a break to cool off. These gestures might seem small, but they go a long way toward diffusing tension and showing your commitment to the relationship.

Moreover, make it a practice to de-escalate situations. Instead of feeding into the fire, strive to be the calming force. This could mean suggesting a change in conversation or reminding each other of the love you share. By consistently choosing the path of repair and de-escalation, you’re not just resolving conflicts but also fortifying the foundation of trust and understanding in your marriage.

conflict resolution strategies in marriage
Instead of feeding into the fire, strive to be the calming force.

Showing Empathy After a Conflict

Empathy is one of the crucial ingredients of a successful marriage. It ensures that even if conflicts arise in your marriage, the relationship remains strong because you understand your partner needs to vent while you just sit there and listen. Empathy acts as the soothing note that restores harmony after a disagreement.

To show empathy after a conflict, start by taking a moment to genuinely reflect on and understand your partner’s point of view. Putting yourself in their shoes is about understanding the factual points they raised and the emotions they might have felt during the disagreement.

Imagine the situation from their viewpoint, even if you don’t fully agree with it. This act of imagination leads to a deeper understanding of where they’re coming from.

Once you’ve grasped their emotional landscape, acknowledge it. A simple “I can see how you felt hurt or overlooked” can go a long way in bridging the emotional gap.

You should also express genuine regret for any pain the conflict might have caused, even if it wasn’t intentional. A heartfelt “I’m sorry for how things turned out” can go a long way toward bridging the emotional gap.

Accept Influence

Imagine a scenario where every disagreement in your marriage circles back to a stubborn standstill, with neither partner budging an inch. It’s a recipe for repeated frustration.

But what if you took a step back, acknowledging that your perspective isn’t the only valid one? That’s the concept of accepting influence.

Your partner, just like you, brings a wealth of experiences, insights, and wisdom to the relationship. They have unique ideas and viewpoints that can be just as valuable as yours, if not more so, in certain situations. Accepting influence is about recognizing this fact and being open to the possibility that your partner might offer a better or alternative solution to a problem.

By being receptive to your partner’s thoughts and suggestions, you’re not just resolving a conflict but building a foundation of respect and mutual understanding. It’s about valuing the diversity of thought and acknowledging that two heads with two perspectives can often find richer and more balanced solutions.


One of the best conflict resolution strategies is compromise. Amidst disagreements, it’s natural to want to stand your ground and believe in your perspective’s absolute righteousness. Yet, it’s in the midst of these very disagreements that the magic of compromise can turn discord into harmony.

Dr. Gottman captures the essence of compromise, saying, “Compromise never feels perfect. Everyone gains something and everyone loses something. The important thing is feeling understood, respected, and honored in your dreams.” This quote encapsulates the essence of compromise.

It isn’t about finding a solution that makes you glow with triumph; it’s about co-creating a space where both partners feel valued and heard. It’s about seeking a middle ground where both parties might have to let go of a little but gain a lot in return: peace, understanding, and a stronger relationship foundation.

Embracing compromise as one of your primary conflict-resolution strategies in marriage means understanding that perfection isn’t the goal. The goal is unity, mutual respect, and ensuring that both partners’ dreams and feelings are honored.

Seek Guidance From Gottman-Certified Relationship Therapists

Effective communication is the keystone to healing and resolving conflicts in the intricate dance of marriage. It’s this art of open dialogue that empowers you and your partner to confront disagreements head-on, delve deep to unearth root causes and pave the way for genuine emotional restoration. Remember, the strength of a union isn’t gauged by the absence of conflicts but by your ability to rise above, mend, and grow from them.

conflict resolution strategies in marriage gottman-approved therapists
The strength of a union isn’t gauged by the absence of conflicts but by your ability to grow from them.

Feeling inspired to invest more in your relationship? Why don’t you both free yourselves from the stresses and pressures of the daily grind and give our Intensive Couples Therapy Getaway a try? Imagine reconnecting with your loved one amidst the scenic beauty of San Diego, all while getting expert guidance on building a more harmonious relationship.

With our seasoned therapists and Dr. Dana McNeil at your side, you’re in for a transformative journey. Book an appointment today, and let’s embark on this path to a happier, healthier marital bond together.



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