**Talk, Own it, and Show Respect ** Chakravarthy, a marriage expert, writes, “When opinions vary, couples often find it difficult to meet halfway, and agree to disagree, or agree to agree, or establish common ground” (2018). She continues, “Marriage is serious work. A successful marriage is often a result of successful understanding, respect for your partner for who he or she is and surrendering a false ego that stands in the way of a healthy conflict resolution strategy.” We don’t realize it, but often we believe in fairy tales. No arguing. Smooth, sunny skies. No commitment or trust issues – a Disney movie ending. So, to prepare for storms that rock the house, what do you do? When the fairy tale relationship foundation is shaken, how do you react?
Take the Gloves Off - Resolve Conflict When the storm arrives, how you react can predict if your relationship endures. When you try to “win,” your partner will likely feel it as a threat, self-interest, or your neediness being more important to you than the relationship. Dr. John and Dr. Julie Gottman, world-famous marriage researchers and authors of expert marriage guidance trainings, have identified criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and withdrawing (called Stonewalling) as the most home-destroying reactions possible in the heat of conflict. So destructive, in fact, the Gottman’s called these 4 attitudes the “Four Horseman,” of the apocalypse (2016). But how to overcome these in the heat of the moment?
Strong House When in the middle of an argument, invested in a point of view that is hard to let go, in holding your ground your physiology becomes extreme – heart rate elevates (over 95 beats per minute), breathing is hard, blood pressure goes up, adrenaline goes wild. You may want to leave, stop talking, or shut down – it’s fight or flight. Is there a simple strategy that will work to calm the raging inner and outer storms? There is…take a break for an agreed amount of time (minimum of 30 minutes). Walk away. Decompress. Think about something else. Read a book. Watch TV. Play a game …. something to disengage. After the time is up, try again but if the storm starts to rage again (it is called Flooding) break again and try the next day. If the next day the storm returns, seek help from trusted friends or counseling – it is ok to get help. Remember, the goal of a break isn’t to resolve the issue, the goal is to calm the raging storm before it permanently damages your home. YES, it will take considerable resolve to break during the heat of the moment, but it is best to keep the destructive forces at bay. Absolutely nothing good will come out of destructive forces. The Gottman’s (2017) discovered in their 45 years of research that, “a satisfying agreement in which positive affect prevailed – is from a healthy set point - could be created only if each partner was working from a position of mutual interest, not self-interest.”
Next BLOG: Getting to That 5-to-1 Healthy Setpoint
References: Chakravarthy, M. (2018, Nov 18). Sorting out paradise: What makes marriages sink or swim. Free Press Journal, Mumbai. https://www.freepressjournal.in/cmcm/sorting-out-paradise-what-makes-marriages-sink-or-swim Gottman, J., & Gottman, J. (2017, Sep). The Science of TOGETHERNESS. Psychotherapy Networker, 41, 43-47, 59. https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/article/1113/the-science-of-togetherness/6764c593-23e5-4fd6-96b4-996ae0255a23 Gottman, J. & Gottman, J. S. (2016). Level 1 clinical training, Gottman method couples therapy: bridging the couple chasm. The Gottman Institute, Inc., www.gottman.com