January 24, 2022

Improving Your Marriage with Repair

“Your future together can be bright even if your disagreements tend to be very negative. The secret is learning the right kind of damage control.” John Gottman

Disagreements: What happens as you and your partner disagree? Can you get back to normal pretty quickly? Or is there stonewalling and combativeness?

John Gottman, preeminent marriage therapist and author of Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, writes of the REPAIR concept noting that repairs save marriages and the inability to make repairs is a major contributor to failed ones.

REPAIR: An effort to get beyond the disagreement. According to Gottman, spouses will never agree on everything and most arguments can’t be resolved. The question becomes how can we agree to disagree and get past the fight?

Gottman’s definition of repair is “any statement or action—silly or otherwise—that prevents negativity from escalating out of control.” In that way, the disagreement does not go on for days, bringing it up again and again or stonewalling. The effective couple moves on to what is next and does so rather seamlessly.

Repair is not an apology. It’s getting back to normal. If Bob and Alice have an argument about vacation or how money is to be spent, the argument stops; the repair is effort to get back to normal. It might be a touch, a kiss on the cheek, a silly comment.   It can be a number of affirmative, nice or even neutral gestures.

Additional techniques may include taking breaks, self soothing or saying you are wrong.  Gottman suggests trying to listen even when disagreeing.  Appreciation of your partner is also necessary.

What’s Success?  Couples get back to normal more rapidly than failing couples. No apology necessary; instead there is respect for each other that includes agreeing to disagree.

Remember this is work on your marriage path — you are repairing cracks before potholes are the problem. If you find spats go on and on look for repair avenues, rapidly get back to normal even if there is no agreement.


Marriage Investment – for the Newlyweds

So men and women come from the same planet after all.” John Gottman

Dear Newlyweds:

Your wedding was beautiful, poignant, and wonderful. Seeing and meeting family and friends was a bonus. Mom and I are happy for and proud of you both.

Here is unsolicited marriage advice from me but more accurately it follows the teachings of John Gottman, the foremost marriage therapist of our time.

According to Gottman, “The determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple’s friendship. For men, the determining factor is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple’s friendship. So men and women come from the same planet after all.”

What then makes for a happy marriage? Gottman outlines the 5 hour a week marriage investment in the following ways:

Say “goodbye” slowly. Take two minutes every day to gently say goodbye and find out a piece of what your partner is doing today. This can easily become a positive habit. (5 days =10 minutes/week)

Say “Hello” when you get back together. In this 20 minutes, reconnect in a pleasant way. Relax, enjoy and be nice. It is not a time to bring up all the woes of the day. (5 days =1 hour 40 minutes/week.)

Express admiration and appreciation. Some say “my partner should know I admire him/her.” Maybe, but isn’t it better to make sure? Here’s the radical idea: face each other and for a full 5 minutes daily tell of your appreciation and admiration for your partner. (Daily =35 minutes/week.)

Touch. We are humans; we like touch. It acknowledges we are present. This can be the life blood of a marriage. Caress, pat, hold, cuddle, kiss and show physical affections daily at least 5 minutes. (35 minutes week)

Date. It is scary that 67% of marriages end in divorce and over one-half of those occur in the first seven years. It is hard work being together — and joyous. Make sure you date, that you have regular joy to look forward to. Do this at least two hours a week.

There it is: how to build a foundation to your marriage using 5 hours per week. Gottman also notes for exercisers: if you really want good health, invest at least as much time in strengthening your relationship as you do in strengthening your cardiovascular system or muscles. By the way, it’s best do both!

Yes, as with anything worthwhile, it takes an investment of time and of energy. Investing in marriage makes lots of sense. These are great tools. Using them is up to the two of you. Start now.

I love you both,


My son Ben and his new bride Taleigha were married 10-10-10.


Improving Marriage: a 5 to 1 investment ideal

“Remember working briefly on your marriage everyday will do more for your health and longevity than working out in a health Club.” John Gottman

“No deposit, no returnwords on a coke bottle

The preeminent marriage therapist of our time, John Gottman, reports couples that are positive at a ratio of 5/1 are more likely to have healthy relationships. He is talking about making nice gestures and saying nice things to the one who is most important in our life. He notes these couples “turn toward” each other and appreciate partner intent even when the deed may fall short. He speaks of a kiss on the cheek, a smile or a thank you. A so called “deposit” in contrast to a “withdrawal” every time the same spouse says “you didn’t turn the light off” or “you left the drawer open.” If a couple does this at a 1/1 ratio, Gottman notes the relationship is quite unhealthy. Makes sense when you think about it. Who, in fact, do we generally like and want in our life? I’d say people that generally appreciate us for who we are and what we do. Additionally, when these friends, or family offer critique, we are more likely to hear it and thus adjust and improve (if we agree) about our behavior.

Oddly sometimes we take the opposite point of view, sort of a higher standard for those we love thus when they don’t meet that standard….here come the critiques. The thought seems to be “if I criticize, remind you enough you will improve.” Couples sometimes, with a bit of embarrassment, tell me they are doing 5/1 in the other direction…5 complaints for every appreciation. They seem to think it is their job to bring every point up as if their job is to be the best critic possible. Turning this around can be a key to improving the relationship. The comment that “my partner should know” that they are appreciated is often a clue to significant problems. Make sure your partner (and kids and friends) know they are appreciated. It also feels good to notice the pluses of others, to appreciate. Making the “deposits” is not only good for receiver but also for the giver.

One way to do this is develop habits, especially at recurring times. So that when you leave for work in the morning there is a smile, kiss on the cheek, an “I love you”. Similar habits can be developed at times of reuniting and at bed time. These are good habits. Ironically the feedback needs to be genuine, not just habitual. If 5/1 is not happening with your significant other you will find that the change may be difficult…and I expect worth the effort.

Another part of the plan may be to decide about the small things that your partner does (or does not do), at least for some of them, maybe it is really just your job. Can it be your job to turn the closet light out or close the drawer? So many of the small things just do not seem worth making a “withdrawal.”

By the way, don’t keep score. While you may want to keep score, don’t; just be sure you make your deposits. Keeping score seems to turn into another way to critique.

Give this a try with your partner, kids and/or friends.