Relationship Minute: Your Code Word for Repair

It’s tough to find the right words after a fight. Consider coming up with an agreed-upon word or phrase that signals to you both that one of you is attempting to make a repair.

Dr. John Gottman notes, “Formalizing repair attempts by using these scripted phrases can help you defuse arguments in two ways: First, the formality of a script ensures that you will use the type of words that work well for putting on the brakes, and second, these phrases are like megaphones—they help ensure that you pay attention to a repair attempt when you’re on the receiving end.”

This can be silly and random like “pineapples” (in fact, levity is a great tension-breaker), or something stronger such as “How can I make this better?” or “Tell me what you need from me.” Whatever you choose, be sure you both agree that, when one of you says this code word, it means you want to restore your connection.

During a neutral time, ask your partner, “What’s our code word for repair?”

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.