Every married couple has had a fight, heck more like a number of them. Sadly many times these fights end up in divorce and broken relationships. As if that isn’t enough many of these relationships have children in the mix, and they are the ones who sometimes suffer the most.
Because of this, it’s good to have a better understanding of our partner. Many times we operate from what our own needs are, but totally ignore the needs of the person we are spending our lives with. Understanding and proper communication is the key.
Have you ever been in a fight that you knew was going nowhere? Have you ever been in a fight that you knew was going nowhere AND you wanted it to end, but couldn’t figure out how to stop bickering? The way a couple ends a fight says a lot about the quality of their relationship and the stability of their marriage. Dr. John Gottman, the foremost researcher on marriage, calls these fight ending techniques “Repair Attempts” and says the way they are delivered and whether or not they are received can predict the longevity of the relationship!
I threw out this idea to some friends and asked, “What are some common repair attempts between you and your husband?” Here’s what some of them said…
• Even if he’s grumpy, he’ll say, “I love you.” What am I going to do? I have to say it back. Even if I’m still mad, it definitely diffuses things.
• He hugs me. I usually resist at first, but ultimately it softens me up and we both calm down.
• We hold hands. We heard about this somewhere… that you can’t stay mad at someone you’re holding hands with. We’ve tried it, which is hard when you’re mad, but it makes a big difference.
• He farts. No matter how mad I am, I turn into a fourteen-year-old boy when he farts. I can’t stop laughing!
I DIED over that last one! First of all, who can do that on command?
What is a Repair Attempt?
Foundationally, a repair attempt is any gesture that attempts to calm, diffuse, or end the fight peacefully. Gottman says that even if someone says, “Ugh, I need a break,” it can come across as stonewalling, but it is actually that person’s repair attempt to calm themselves rather than further escalate the fight.
What he’s noticed with couples whose relationships eventually dissolve is that either they aren’t willing to make repair attempts, or if one spouse makes the attempt, the other spouse rejects it. For instance, if Farting Husband was rejected by his wife as being rude or gross instead of received by her with laughter – that would be a failed repair attempt. Or if the wife reaches for her husband’s hand but he rejects her and refuses to hold her back, it is a failed attempt.
7 Ways To Diffuse The Fight Before It Escalates
The way a couple ends a fight is a telling indicator of the quality of their relationship and the stability of the marriage. Repair attempts are any gestures that attempt to calm, diffuse, or end the fight peacefully. Next time it gets too intense, try one of these…
1. “Please say that more gently.”
2. “That felt like an insult.”
3. Open Your arms to invite your spouse in to be held.
4. “Just listen to me right now and try to understand.”
5. “Can you kiss me?”
6. “Can we take a break?”
7. “Let me try again.”
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