Marriages aren’t just about sunset walks and shared desserts; they’re also about the silent standoffs over unwashed dishes and whose turn it is to pick up the kids. Ask any relationship therapist, and they will tell you that conflict is as much a part of marriage as romance, but it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. How you handle these squabbles can either cement your bond or chisel away at its foundation, leading to divorce.
Imagine if you had a roadmap to navigate through the tangles of heated words and cold shoulders, a way to turn conflicts into stepping stones for a stronger relationship. That’s where Dr. John Gottman’s work — the six repair attempts —comes in handy to help you understand how to resolve conflicts in marriage and rebuild trust in your relationship. Read on as we explore these Gottman repair attempts and guide you in applying them in real life.
What Are The 6 Repair Attempts? Gottman’s Conflict Resolution Advice
John Gottman has spearheaded evidence-based research on successful conflict resolution in relationships. In one of his studies, he presented couples with various phrases to determine which ones would most positively impact them when spoken by their partner during a disagreement.
From the insights gathered from thousands of couples, Gottman categorized the most impactful phrases into six distinct types of repair statements. The six statements are:
- “I feel” statements
- “I’m sorry” statements
- “Get to yes” statements
- “I need to calm down” statements
- “Stop action” statements
- “I appreciate” statements
These statements are efforts you can make to deescalate tension, clarify a misunderstanding, or address an issue before, during, or after a conflict. We will get to more details about these statements and how to apply them to resolve conflict in your marriage.
How To Resolve Conflicts In Marriage? Apply Gottman’s 6 Repair Attempts
Let’s explore how you can integrate these repair attempts into your daily interactions to resolve conflict and restore your emotional connection:
Express Your Feelings
When a conflict arises, express your feelings using “I feel” statements. This approach allows you to own your emotions and communicate them without blaming your partner.
For example, instead of saying, “You never listen to me,” try, “I feel unheard when I can’t share my thoughts with you.” This shifts the conversation from a potential argument to a shared problem you can address together.
A sincere apology is a powerful tool for healing rifts. Use “I’m sorry” statements to take responsibility for your part in the conflict.
It’s important to be specific about what you’re apologizing for and to convey your intentions to avoid repeating the behavior. Apologizing can rebuild trust and show your partner you value their feelings and your relationship.
Find a Common Ground
True resolution lies in recognizing that the relationship’s health takes precedence over the individual’s need to be right. With “get to yes” statements, you actively look for solutions that can work for both of you.
Say something like, “Can we find a solution that works for both of us?” It transforms the conflict from a win-lose scenario to a win-win situation, which is more beneficial for the health of your marriage.
Take a Time-Out
When speaking about the steps to mend relationship conflict in one of her articles, Dr. Dana McNeil emphasizes that one of the best things to do is take a break from the conflict. So when emotions run high, “I need to calm down” statements can prevent the situation from escalating.
Acknowledge that you need a moment to collect your thoughts by saying, “I need to take a break and calm down before we continue.” Calming yourself down gives your brain time to make the best logical decision and approach the issue more rationally.
Hit the Pause Button on the Conflict
Sometimes, the best course of action is to stop the conflict altogether for the moment, using the “stop action” statements. In one of the Gottman Institute’s articles, the contributor says these statements are “designed to interrupt the escalation of an argument before one or both partners get flooded and redirect the conversation.”
Use statements to suggest a timeout from the argument, like “Let’s pause this discussion for now.” It’s a cue for both of you to step back, reflect, and perhaps approach the issue later with a clearer head.
Even in the midst of conflict, it’s crucial to express appreciation for each other, as this approach can maintain a sense of partnership. “I appreciate” statements can shift the tone of the conversation and remind you both of the positive aspects of your relationship. Try saying, “I appreciate your willingness to work this out with me,” to acknowledge your partner’s efforts and reinforce the bond you share.
Resolving Conflicts vs. Managing Conflicts
When it comes to maintaining harmony in marriage, understanding the difference between resolving and managing conflicts is key. Resolving conflicts is about finding permanent solutions to problems and laying them to rest so they don’t resurrect in your next argument. It’s when you dig deep, unearth the root cause, and agree on a course of action that eradicates the issue.
Conversely, managing conflicts recognizes that not all issues can be solved. Dr. John Gottman’s research illuminates that 69% of relationship conflicts fall into this category. These could be due to fundamental personality differences or deeply held beliefs that are not easily changed.
Instead of tilting at windmills trying to solve these unsolvable issues, you should focus on managing them and establishing a way to live with these differences without letting them dominate the relationship. This might involve setting boundaries, agreeing to disagree, or developing strategies to de-escalate tension.
How Can Couples Therapy Help?
Couples therapy can be a lifeline when you feel like you’re swimming against a relentless tide of unresolved marriage conflicts. A skilled therapist will guide you and your partner through the turbulent waters of your relationship. They provide tools and techniques that help you understand each other’s perspectives, communicate more effectively, and navigate disagreements in a way that strengthens your relationship rather than weakening it.
Moreover, therapy offers a neutral ground where you can voice concerns without fear of judgment or retribution. It’s a space where you can explore the patterns that lead to conflict and address them constructively. The therapist acts as a facilitator, helping you uncover the root of issues and encouraging a dialogue that promotes healing and growth.
Seek Help From a Gottman-Certified Relationship Therapist Today
If you and your partner are facing persistent conflicts in your marriage, remember that seeking help is a sign of strength and commitment to your union. At the Relationship Place, our Gottman-certified relationship therapists will help you turn conflict into a constructive dialogue.
We equip couples with effective strategies for starting and maintaining conversations, viewing disagreements as opportunities for positive change. Why not reach out to us, or better yet, immerse yourselves in our Intensive Couples Therapy Getaway to reconnect with your partner amidst the beauty of San Diego? Contact us and start your journey toward a harmonious relationship.