How happy couples avoid conflict “crash.”

How did Mac and Millie find their way back to a happy marriage? Do you remember those two from our last post? Their conflict discussion seemed headed downhill, or even to divorce court. Yet there is a proven strategy, which Mac followed, to avoid conflict “crash” and restore connection.

Relationship science recommends using “repairs” to get back on track. 

As you may recall, Mac had expressed his feeling that Millie didn’t respect him. She responded by correcting his grammar—ouch! He was reaching out for understanding, and she betrayed him by ignoring his request and criticizing him instead.

But relationship science shows that there is almost always a way to save the day. Mac used something which scientist John Gottman calls a “repair.” This means any loving, upbeat maneuver by either partner which pulls a couple out of a “me-versus-you” mode and into an “us” mode. In this case, Mac used humor as his repair. To see how he did it, let’s return to their conversation:

Mac: Darling, sometimes I feel like you don’t respect me.

Millie: You feel as if I don’t respect you. Like is a preposition, not a conjunction.

Mac: Arghh!

Millie: What?!

Millie’s biting responses makes the situation seem hopeless but here’s Mac’s repair:

Mac: You grammar girls know how to turn a guy on. I’m gonna conjunction you, baby!

Laugh all the way back to a happy marriage.

This made Millie laugh. He laughed with her, and suddenly they were on the same team again.

That’s what repairs do. They’re a form of cease-fire, or time-out, to interrupt a negative interaction, restore intimacy in marriage, and revive the sense of we’re-in-this-together.

However, Mac knew that he and his wife still needed to address his feelings. Her initially dismissive response merely confirmed the fact that it was high time for a heart-to-heart. So next he followed another tried-and-true piece of relationship advice: Make an appointment.

To maintain intimacy in marriage, schedule those talks.

Mac: Seriously though, I’d like us to have a talk about our marriage and how we can make it even better. When would be a good time that we could sit down and talk a while without interruption?

Millie: Oh, okay. Mm… Sunday after breakfast?

Mac. It’s a date. Thanks, sweetheart!

When Sunday rolls around, Mac will be ready with a sure-fire way to make their talk a success. You see, all couples experience conflict—but only the happy couples know how to alchemize conflict into deeper intimacy. There is one very easy tool, in particular, which Mac will use to virtually guarantee that his discussion with Millie turns out well.

Don’t miss that gem of relationship advice. 

So tune in next time for the last of this three-part series on couples conflict, to discover what that tool is, and how Mac uses it to revive his happy marriage. You won’t want to miss that, so if you’re not yet on my list for blog updates, please opt-in now using the form at the top right.

Meanwhile, start benefitting today from these two takeaways:

  • Make Repairs: Use repairs to interrupt an antagonistic discussion. Often, this means deploying affectionate humor to disrupt hostility and restore a sense of togetherness. Other repairs could include bringing up a happy shared memory; mentioning something nice about your partner (“By the way, you look great in that dress”); or simply pausing the conversation for a moment with a warm, sincere smile—or even a quick kiss!
  • Make Appointments: If a heart-to-heart is called for, rather than tackling sensitive issues on the fly, set an appointment with your partner to have that important discussion.

I look forward to sharing with you what Mac does to virtually guarantee their Sunday morning conflict talk  turns out happily ever after. Meanwhile, please post your questions & wisdom below. And, if you’ve enjoyed today’s blog, please be so kind as to click Like. Thank you!