CONFLICT RESOLUTION SKILLS ALL COUPLES CAN LEARN
Conflict in all relationships is inevitable, including marriage. There are several skills, as discovered through the research of John Gottman, that couples can learn to help them resolve conflict productively. I am not going to list them all in this post. Instead, I am going to list one skill per post for the next few days. As a result, you can read one at a time rather than a whole list of them and then take a day or two to think about the skill I describe, talk about it with your mate, begin to internalize it, and learn to practice it. Here’s the first one:’
1. Practice physiological self-soothing. Take a time out when conflict arises and you find yourself feeling more and more overwhelmed or flooded with negative emotions which make you feel like withdrawing (become silent or leave the room) or make you want to yell and emotionally attack your partner, expressing harsh judgments and name-calling (“What’s wrong with you! You never listen to me!”)
Instead, let your partner know that you are feeling too upset to talk and that you need to take a break. The conversation has become too heated. It’s impossible to resolve anything when you are in this state. But then always return to talk about the issue 20 – 30 minutes later, or at most, within 24 hours. Don’t continue the argumentative dialogue in your head., Take a walk. Finish a chore. Read a book. Call a friend (but not to talk about the conflict!). Do whatever it takes to breathe, calm down, and return to a better frame of mind that will hopefully enable you to listen and not react…to accept responsibility for your own behavior and not act defensively…to empathize and not blame…and hopefully begin to feel that you can be there for each other.
So that’s the first skill. Think about it. Talk to each other about it. Work on practicing it.