A Happy Couple’s Secret Weapon

There are many relationship skills that we need to have to make our marriages successful, enjoyable and fulfilling. Some people are natural ballroom dancers and others can paint the most life like pictures without any training, but for most of us skills take patience and effort to acquire.

Prof. John Gottman talks about one of these skills, and he describes it as “the secret weapon of emotionally intelligent couples.” The skill is the repair attempt.

It works like this. You are spending some time planning your weekend activities and as usual you can’t agree on who should get to choose this week. The tension and blood pressure are starting to climb and the decibel level is creeping up, a repair attempt is needed to reestablish the calm.

In Prof. Gottman’s example, the couple stick out their tongues, mimicking their young son, and every time it brings a laugh and the desired calm. Repair attempts can be “I’m sorry” or “Wait a second, I need an ice cream sundae with hot chocolate sauce and a cherry on top”.

Repair attempts can stop a negative communication in its tracks, but only if you let it. When you see or hear you partner attempting to repair, that is your signal to accept. A joke about ice cream sundaes may sound like they are trivializing your concerns, and it might not have been the best way to do it, either way it then becomes your responsibility to accept.

Happy couples are more likely to be open to each others attempts at making things better than couples who are struggling. Even if you are one of those couples who are struggling open yourself to hear what your partner is trying to say to break away from the negative communication.

Get out your tool kit and start repairing.

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