Handling conflict in a relationship is challenging for many couples. It can be difficult to find ways to talk about disagreements or complaints that don’t devolve into arguments that don’t resolve anything, leave you both feeling worse, and potentially lead to more fights down the road.
Marriage expert John Gottman describes five steps to deal with conflicts without letting them turn into fights .
Step 1. Soften Your Startup: We looked at some tips to soften your startup in an earlier post. “Startup” refers to how you initiate a discussion with your partner about a complaint you have or an issues of conflict in your relationship. Regarding startups, Gottman says:
In a previous post we looked at some signs that suggest your relationship or marriage is in trouble according to relationship expert John Gottman. Gottman also describes seven principles that can help you get your relationship or marriage back on track.
1. Enhancing Your Love Maps: Love Maps are the part of your brain where you keep information about your partner’s life. The more familiar you and your partner are with each other’s world, the more detailed your love maps. You know each other’s histories, day-to-day life, friends, values, interests, dreams, etc. You know how things are going in in their life, at work, whether they’re having a bad day or week, what’s been on their mind, anything that’s troubling or worrying them, and important things that are coming up in their life. You also know the little details like their favourite foods, books, movies and tv shows. You keep track of what’s important in each other’s lives, and in so doing become closer and more intimate with each other. Read More
One of the things we value most from our relationships is feeling emotionally connected with another person. This connection helps us feel safe and secure not just in our relationships, but in our life in general.
However, when our emotional connection to our partner is not secure, or our partner is inaccessible or unresponsive, we start to feel alone and our relationships become threatened.
According to Sue Johnson, who developed Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), the basic issue in most relationship problems isn’t fighting or power struggles or lack of communication, but rather that couples have become emotionally disconnected. Johnson finds that marriages fail not due to increasing conflict, but due to decreasing affection and emotional responsiveness.
Marriage and relationship expert John Gottman has spent years analyzing relationships to figure out what makes them work, and what types of interactions between couples signal danger. Based on studying thousands of couples and how they interact, he’s able to predict with 91% accuracy whether a couple will divorce. He’s identified six signs, described below, that a relationship is in trouble. If these issues aren’t addressed, chances are the relationship will fail.
Please don’t get discouraged if you recognize many or all of these signs in your relationship. They are all very common, and diagnosing underlying problems in your relationship is the first step in mending things with your partner. Once you’ve identified what the problems are, there are concrete steps you can take to solve these problems.
1. Harsh Startup: Startup refers to the way a conversation begins, and a harsh startup occurs when a discussion begins with criticism or sarcasm or contempt. According to Gottman, discussions that begin with a harsh startup inevitably end on a negative note, regardless of how much you try to make amends in between. Read More
When you’re facing a conflict in your relationship, one of the most effective things you can do to initiate a discussion that avoids turning into a fight is to learn how to soften your startup.
Disagreements tend to end with at least as much tension as they begin with. If you bring up the subject of a conflict with angry words, blaming and criticizing your partner, it’s likely the discussion will end in even more anger, blame and criticism. However, if you’re able to soften your startup—the way in which you broach the topic—you can have productive discussions with your partner on even the most sensitive subjects.
If you’re feeling too angry and upset to discuss things gently, then it’s better to wait until you’ve calmed down enough to approach the discussion from a less angry and more calm perspective. But once you’re ready to have a conversation, rather than an argument, below are some ways to soften your startup, avoid fighting, and promote discussion with your partner.
Do you and our partner argue a lot or have trouble communicating? Are you wondering how to move past an infidelity in your relationship? Or do you feel like your partner is controlling and you’re not sure what to do about it? The short videos below answer some common questions and concerns people have about their relationships.
Fighting and Arguing in Relationships