May 31, 2020

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.

Bill