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. Visit their website.

Relationship Minute: The Autopilot Partner

If you’ve been together a long time, it’s easy to be on “autopilot.” You’re so used to the way you speak and interact with each other that you stop mindfully listening to what the other says.

Do these exchanges sound familiar?

Your Partner: “What a beautiful sunset.”
You: “Uh huh. Did you put the trash out?”

Or…

You: “I’m concerned about Sam. I don’t know what to do.”
Your Partner: “Yeah, I bet… What’s for dinner?”

You can turn away from a bid by absentmindedly responding to your partner or replying when you didn’t really hear what they said. This can lead to built-up tension and even full-blown conflict, especially if your partner feels unheard and rejected.

This turning away is often unintentional. You may not even be aware that you missed a bid because, such as the first example, your mind was on the trash and their mind was on the sunset.

Talk to your partner about a time that either one of you was on “autopilot.” If you had the chance again, how would you respond?

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute.Visit their website.

Relationship Minute: Write It Down

Whether you’re in the heat of conflict or a tense, but civil State of the Union discussion, tough topics make listening with your defenses down quite difficult.

If you find certain topics always put you on the defensive, here’s a trick straight from Dr. John Gottman. In “What Makes Love Last?” he notes, “When I feel defensive, I try to write down everything my wife says. I remind myself that I care about her and she’s in a lot of discomfort, unhappiness, or pain. I am feeling defensive, but I will get my turn to talk.

This simple act helps you listen to your partner and perhaps understand their perspective better. It also gives you time to gather your thoughts. This significantly slows down the chance of escalating the situation with a sharp, biting comeback.

Want to give it a try? The next time you’re headed toward conflict with your partner, pause, breathe, and write down what they’re saying. You might see the conversation in a whole new way.

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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 Shared Symbols?

The Sound Relationship House teaches that shared meaning is an essential part of a solid partnership. When you see life through a similar lens, you’re less likely to let miscommunicated (or uncommunicated) assumptions lead to conflict.

Shared meaning turns physical items into symbols that you both see the same way. For example, take your dining room table. Perhaps you see it as a workspace for projects or a place to put the mail. However, your partner sees it as a special area for family dining and wants to keep it clean between meals.

See how conflict can arise?

A good way to get on the same page with your symbols is to talk about them. Ask specific questions: What does this mean to you? Tell me a personal story about this. How do you want this to be treated?

When you communicate with each other about what something means or represents, you can align your values and beliefs and be supportive of one another.

What are your shared symbols? How can you better understand how your partner sees your life together? 

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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: Questions to Ask After a Fight

The existence of conflict does not spell the end of your relationship. Some negativity is necessary for stability, but positivity is what nourishes the relationship. One of the predictors of a relationship’s failure is a couple’s inability to manage conflict in a healthy manner and to move forward knowing the source of their gridlock.

Couples need to understand their fights. To move forward after an argument, begin by asking yourself the following questions: 

  • “How did we get here in the first place?” 
  • “Why didn’t our conversation go well?” 
  • “What is the meaning of the issue between us?” 
  • “What are the sources of our gridlock on this subject?”

Most importantly, ask yourself: “What was the conversation we needed to have, but didn’t?”

The ultimate goal in the aftermath of a fight is to have dialogue about the underlying issues that started it. Miscommunication can cause further unnecessary conflict, but at the same time, such a regrettable incident is an opportunity to work together and grow as a couple.

Related blog posts

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: Soothing Each Other

Self-soothing is essential to conflict management. You can course-correct an argument that gets too heated by regulating your own response. Further, you can make repairs by soothing your partner as well.

Part of knowing each other’s inner world is understanding what your partner needs when they are flooded.

What calms them down? A long hug? Saying something kind and gentle such as, “I hear you”? Or do they just need you to listen for a while?

As you work to self-soothe, consider what can help your partner as well. If you’re not sure, ask them. “What can I do to soothe you?” Their answer may hold the key to successful repair attempts, better conflict management, and a stronger emotional bond.

How you handle conflict speaks volumes about the health of your relationship.

Related blog posts

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: 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?”

Related blog posts

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’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.

Related blog posts

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.

Related blog posts

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.

Related blog posts

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.