Relationship Minute: Isn’t “I’m Sorry” Enough?

Have you ever apologized to your partner after a fight, but it didn’t seem to make a difference?

The Gottmans believe the effectiveness of making repairs after a conflict depends on the state of your relationship. If you’re fundamentally unhappy together, the perfect apology will still fall flat. This is related to “Negative Sentiment Override,” when you no longer see each other’s good traits and only see the bad. Once a relationship is in this phase, repair attempts can be doomed from the start.

The good news is you can “buck the system,” as Dr. John Gottman says. “You don’t have to wait for your marriage to improve before you start hearing each other’s repair attempts.”

When the next conflict occurs, be intentional about looking for your partner’s attempts to repair. Whether they say, “I’m sorry” or “Let’s start over,” recognize their effort to bridge the divide and see where you can meet them halfway. It’s the starting point towards breaking the cycle of negativity.

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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. 

Relationship Minute: Owning It

Think back to the last argument you had with your partner.

It’s probably easy to remember what your partner did or said that was wrong, but have you considered where you were at fault?

Did you forget to use a soft start-up when bringing a sensitive topic to the table? Did you slip into criticism in the heat of the moment?

Taking responsibility for your part in the escalation of an argument can be difficult. However, it’s one of the most important things you can do both in and after a conflict. Owning it looks like: “I shouldn’t have shouted” or “I could have listened to you closely when you shared how you felt.” You acknowledge what you did and how you could have done it differently.

So, don’t just say “sorry” and assume you both moved on. Be specific and intentional by owning your role in the conflict. It is the key to unlocking long-lasting connection with your partner.

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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.