Relationship Minute: What’s Your Conflict Style?

When arguing with your partner, do you have a signature move? Is there something you do or say often in conflict?

Perhaps, you find yourself making critical statements like: “You never listen to me” or “You always get your way.” Maybe, when you’re really upset, you resort to name-calling and mocking. Or, as soon as things get heated, you shut down completely and the silent treatment goes into effect.

Every couple fights, but not every couple knows how to fight in a healthy way. In the heat of the moment, you may be prone to rely on old communication habits, no matter how unhelpful they are.

Take time today to think about your conflict style. Ask your partner what you commonly do or say in an argument? They know the impact of your words and actions in conflict and have a unique perspective. For example, while you may think you’re pointing out objective facts, your partner feels attacked.

When you know how you fight, you can make the necessary changes and learn how to fight better.

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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. 

Relationship Minute: Why Is This Important?

Reflecting on arguments they’ve had, many couples will say, “I don’t even remember why it started,” or, “It was over nothing.” But unless you try to investigate that, arguments and conflict may begin to feel frustrating or unresolved for you. The next time you and your partner find yourselves at odds, try asking yourself, “Why is this important to me?”

Dreams, deeply held values, and beliefs lie at the root of every conflict you and your partner have. Even if it seems silly at first.

For example, you might dismiss a squabble over who gets to pick the movie for date night as “fighting about nothing.” But, if you investigate why it turned into a tiff at all, you might remember that your opinion or taste was often dismissed by your family growing up. Or maybe your partner is feeling like they aren’t being heard in the relationship or don’t have an equal say.

If you write it off as nothing, you deprive yourself of the opportunity to learn, to connect, and to be a better 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. 

Relationship Minute: What Are Your Perpetual Problems?

In his book “The Relationship Cure,” Dr. John Gottman says, “a full 69 percent of all marital conflicts never go away.” Dr. Gottman calls them perpetual problems, which are any issues where you and your partner don’t see eye-to-eye no matter how often it comes up.

You can have perpetual problems about anything. Maybe you can’t settle on a financial budget that works for both of you or you keep fighting about who does most of the housework. These conflicts come up again and again without lasting resolution.

What are your perpetual problems? Where do you and your partner constantly meet in conflict? Part of living and loving through your issues is acknowledging they exist.

Set aside time today to note where you and your partner tend to repeatedly butt heads. If you’re comfortable, do this with your partner during a time when you’re both calm. That can look like asking, “Did you ever notice we argue every time someone has to clean the kitchen?” Or mention, “It feels like money has been a touchy subject for a long time. Am I wrong?

Recognizing perpetual problems is the first step in learning to manage the conflict around them.

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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: Signs of Flooding

You have possibly taken time to note the signs of flooding that you exhibit when you’ve reached your max in an argument. However, can you tell when your partner is overwhelmed?

Is it obvious like raising their voice or shutting down completely? Or is it something more subtly, such as the changing of eye color or a face that looks flushed?

It’s important to know when your partner is physiologically flooded during conflict, especially if their tell-tale sign is a “blink and you’ll miss it” characteristic. With this information, you can help bring a fight back from the brink by noting what’s happening and initiating a time-out.

Hey, honey, it seems like you’re getting upset. Let’s take a breather. 

Okay, time-out. Things are getting heated and I can see it. Can we go cool off? 

Think back to your last argument and jot down physical traits, gestures, or movements that your partner did that could signal flooding. Or better yet, ask them. They can give you insight into the little things they do that you can pick up on. Once you know the signs of flooding in conflict from both yourself and your partner, you’re more likely to change course and head for calmer seas.

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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: Self-Soothe to De-Escalate

When it comes to couples’ conflict, in the heat of the moment, it’s hard to calm down. You’re likely experiencing a physiological reaction, such as a faster heart rate or feeling flushed. In these moments, you’re flooded and that fight-or-flight response can either shut down your argument or turn it into World War 3.

It’s important to have some self-soothing techniques in your pocket so that when the next conflict arises (and it will), you’re ready to keep your cool.

Take time today to think about all the ways that bring you back to a rested state. Do you need to take a walk? Do you need to close your eyes and breathe deeply a few times? Practice making these techniques your go-to in an argument so you’re ready to self-soothe and relax. It will take things down a notch and allow you and your partner another chance to have a genuine dialogue.

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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: Dialogue About Problems

Relationships are all about managing differences which, if left unchecked, can turn into problems. Knowing this, you can tackle your next conflict by learning to “Dialogue About Problems,” per the Sound Relationship House.

Dialogue doesn’t come naturally, because your brain is more wired to decide than to discuss. And even when you talk, there’s the tendency to compare, judge, and weigh different viewpoints against each other. The goal of dialoguing about problems is to ask your partner open-ended questions with an open mind. It gives them a chance to influence your decision.

So the next time differences start boiling over into problems, be intentional about starting a dialogue. Give space for both of you to share your feelings and the reasons behind them. It’s an essential step in conflict management and securing a solid relationship. 

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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: Assume positive intent

Do you assume the best in your partner? What assumptions do you make when they do something that happens to ruffle your feathers?

In most relatively healthy relationships, partners are not out to “get” each other. However, sometimes, if negative sentiment is starting to creep in, their actions can be interpreted that way.

For example, you said you were going to do the dishes but time got away from you and your partner ended up doing them instead. Within the context of assuming negativity, they might think you deliberately “forgot” so they would have to do them. You might think that their doing the dishes was a way of communicating, “I’m always cleaning up after you,” and feel defensive.

Or, you could treat each other with care. In that instance, your partner might think, “They’re really busy. I’m sure they just forgot.” Seeing that they did the dishes out of kindness, you might thank them.

Dr. John Gottman says, “Couples often ignore each other’s emotional needs out of mindlessness, not malice.” Accordingly, you and your partner can treat each other with extra generosity by assuming positive intent.

What would happen if you viewed your partner as an ally rather than an adversary?

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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: Getting mad

In this episode of Jay Shetty’s podcast, he talks to John and Julie Gottman about what they learned from decades of studying the “masters of relationships.”

John Gottman notes that he was surprised to find that couples having what is categorized as a “neutral” or calm interaction are actually doing well.

Julie Gottman adds, “I want to be sure that our listeners don’t think that expressing anger is a bad thing. That is not true. So being passionate, being intense, expressing anger, and so on is fine depending on how you voice it. So if you’re expressing anger with an ‘I’ statement that describes how you feel, as opposed to pointing a finger at your partner and describing them as flawed or to blame, that’s very different.”

Even if it’s not your proudest moment, owning your anger by saying, “I’m mad!” is ok, rather than saying, “you’re making me mad!”

You may be feeling anger, and that’s fine, but your partner isn’t making you feel it. It’s okay to feel angry, as long as you acknowledge and own that it’s your feeling.

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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.