Ever so often, couples have quarrels or conflicts where they say mean things to each other, criticise each other and are defensive.
These words could hurt the partners and gradually destroy the relationship from within.
But successful couple know how dangerous these words said in anger can be and what exactly to do about it least it takes its toll on their relationship.
It is called ‘repair.’
We have long believed that time is a healer, that if we give ourselves some time, we will heal from the hurts we face in life or our relationships. It is simply not true, sometimes we may need to give ourselves time to process a hurtful event, but it is the quality of the process and not time that heals.
Successful couples know this at least unconsciously, they also know that if they require too long a time to process and heal it would widen the gulf between them. Therefore, they take the shorter way out; ‘repair’.
Couples that would become unsuccessful often treat these hurtful incidences as if they never happened, they move on, and for a while, things seem fine. Only, each of them is growing increasingly mistrustful of the other, and resentment could be slowly building.
Successful couples know that sometimes saying sorry is not enough, especially when the hurt person doesn’t feel understood or heard.
In repair, a couple talks about the negativity in their interaction in a way that builds trust and heals.
A repair is a conversation a couple has following a ‘bad’ quarrel – where the couple seeks to make amends for the hurtful words or actions done during the argument. In a repair discussion, the couple does not discuss the disagreement that caused the fight in the first place. It is time to process the hurt together.
During this process, they talk from a ‘feeling’ and not from an accusatory standpoint.
John Gottman suggests the following steps for an effective ‘repair’:
1) Talk about your feeling during the fight eg
_I felt let down, belittled, defensive, sad etc_
2) Each couple then talks about their perspective of the disagreement. Your perspective may differ
3) Talk about your trigger(s) and its history
Accept responsibility and own your part in the fight.
4) Discuss how both of you will do things differently next time.
Dr Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham in their book; ‘FROM ANGER TO INTIMACY’ recommends that before having a repair conversation ‘check your body language. Are your arms crossed? Do you appear withdrawn, or does your body communicate that you want to remain connected? Verbally acknowledge that you and your spouse are on the same team and that you both want to find understanding.’
The next time you have one of those ‘bad’ fights, don’t sweep it under the carpet, process it together and repair.