People in “good” relationships never argue or have conflict, right? Not really. All couples argue – unless, of course, their issues are not being addressed or resolved.
Don’t be afraid of conflict – be more afraid of not being able to resolve the issue or conflict.
How you reconnect with each other during and after the argument is more important than the argument itself. When we are in conflict, we are hyper-aware of our differences. We feel disconnected. It can take a terrible toll on the bond we have created.
The key to a long-lasting relationship – after a difficult argument or conflict – is the process of reconnection. Understanding how the argument went, apologizing for your part in it, and most insightful of all, learning what you both can do better next time an issue arises. This is a critical step in healthy conflict resolution because it reattaches the sense of closeness and bonding that felt lost during the conflict.
An effective “tool” in conflict resolution is the repair attempt – a phrase coined by Dr. John Gottman – couples researcher, clinical psychologist, and founder of the Gottman Institute in Seattle, whose methods I practice.
A repair attempt is a small attempt at some level of resolution that takes place in the midst of a conflict. Keep in mind that we don’t have to wait till we’re completely wrung out to start making up!
Making up is hard to do unless we remember to give the relationship higher priority than the issue itself.
When we see conflict as a necessary step in the relationship that we need to get through, it’s easier to make those repair attempts. But if we are afraid of conflict, uncomfortable or have a me vs you attitude, we don’t make the repair attempts.
If we can make up as we go through it, and at the end, conflict is not to be feared.
Here are three ways to begin with a repair attempt:
1. Ask for a break, but be committed to coming back to the issue
2. Validate some aspect of your partner’s position… I agree with your statement that…
3. Find common ground in the frustration: be frustrated together rather than with each other
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