Couples in Conflict:The Top Three Articles for Conflict and Repair

Manage Conflict: The Six Skills

Today on the Gottman Relationship Blog, we continue the discussion of Manage Conflict by introducing Dr. Gottman’s six skills of conflict management. Many of us connect all too well with comedian Mitch Hedberg’s feelings when he quips, “I got in an argument with a girlfriend inside of a tent. That’s a bad place for an argument, because I tried to walk out, and had to slam the flap!”

While his commentary on the frustrations all couples feel in the face of conflict may hit close to home, or deeply amuse us, we know that problems in real relationships are rarely solved through stand-up comedy. In the interest of finding more constructive solutions, we would like to direct you to a different quote, that lovely old adage: Love is saying “I feel differently” instead of “you’re wrong.”

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Managing vs. Resolving Conflict in Relationships: The Blueprints for Success

In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman’s research proves that 69% of problems in a relationship are unsolvable. These may be things like personality traits your partner has that rub you the wrong way, or long-standing issues around spending and saving money. Their research findings emphasize the idea that couples must learn to manage conflict rather than avoid or attempt to eliminate it.

Trying to solve unsolvable problems is counterproductive, and no couple will ever completely eliminate them. However, discussing them is constructive and provides a positive opportunity for understanding and growth. Let’s look at three “conflict blueprints” to help you and your partner constructively manage conflict around unsolvable problems.

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5 Steps to Fight Better if Your Relationship is Worth Fighting For

Conflict is inevitable in every relationship. Psychologist Dan Wile says it best in his book After the Honeymoon: “When choosing a long-term partner, you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unresolvable problems.” However, Dr. Gottman has found that nearly 1/3 of all conflicts can be resolved with the right approach.

The popular approach to conflict resolution, advocated by many marriage therapists, is to put yourself in your partner’s shoes, listen to what they say, and communicate with empathy that you understand their perspective. It’s a decent method if you can do it.

But most couples can’t. Even happily married couples. After studying couples for the last 40 years, Dr. John Gottman has recognized that even happy couples do not follow the experts’ rules of communication.

By studying what these couples did, Dr. Gottman developed a new model for solving your solvable problems in an intimate relationship.

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What is the power of jealousy?

What is jealousy, and how does it come about to affect us so harshly whenever we become plagued in it’s harsh throes? This emotion that drives us to become green with envy is something that is a common problem for a variety of relationships, even those not of romantic roots. It stirs resentment, stews with anger and greed, and brings about the worst within ourselves, hurting even the ones we care about. But, what is it?

Jealousy, in the secular definition, is the general feelings of insecurities, anxieties, and concerns over a lack of possession over something. This something changes depending on context. For instance one can be jealous of a friend for getting the job you wanted, or maybe jealous of someone else’s wealth compared to yours. In this context, however, it refers to the insecurity that wracks the mind when one’s ‘possession’ of a bond with another is threatened. This threatening can be from perhaps a distance created from conflict, or a sudden change that causes one to feel insecure. No matter the circumstance, the feeling is malignant and causes one to shut down from opening up, emotionally or otherwise.

When jealousy arises in a relationship, it can be expressed unconsciously through many mediums: anger, lashing out, overprotectiveness, unfair treatment, harshness, and more. When a partner begins to start lashing out with negative emotion, it is vitally important to identify it, and communicate the feeling. Being green with envy creates subconscious resentment, which is a spreading crack that can poison a bond, no matter how much effort is undergone to mend it completely once suffered. It is not unfair to feel jealousy in of itself. Emotion is emotion, and cannot be faulted, no matter the person, as we all share emotions and are made all the more human by it. However, it is important to remember that lashing out because of jealousy is unfair in a relationship, and should be addressed immediately when noticed.

Jealousy is a terrible emotion that acts as a scourge on a relationship, however it does not warrant complete rejection either. Each person has felt, or will feel jealousy alongside numerous other malicious emotions that come along with developing emotional experience. Emotions and life in general can be surmised in the infamous phrase of Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. It is important to realize that it is a necessity, in order to have a healthy bond with someone, to acknowledge the existence of jealousy between the members in the relationship, and that it is a normal behavior. The point at which jealousy becomes unfair, and unkind, is when the person lashes out, acting on it harshly, out of fear.

One of the hardest things in order to do as part of a relationship of all is it learn to let go. When your partner is doing things that they enjoy, or have to do, you must learn to trust them and let them go in order to let them grow. No matter the jealousy you feel, no matter the feelings of anguish and anxiety, you must learn to trust and let them be. Jealousy will cause you to feel as if you’ve an entitlement to their undivided attention, but is unhealthy for anyone involved. Let them live as a person, and you can cherish them upon their return. That is the essence of overcoming the green plague of jealousy: learn to let go and trust.


The Jealousy Workbook: Exercises and Insights for Managing Open Relationships

Cuddle Therapy Part 1

What is it that you think of when you hear the term ‘cuddling’? Do you think of romantic excitement? Perhaps a warm feeling of security, safety, or contentment. It is probable that some would think of the term as strange, alien, or uncomfortable. But beyond that, what is cuddling?

The act of cuddling, when examined through a literal and secular viewpoint, is the physical, soothing contact between one and another. You can cuddle another person, a pet, an inanimate object, whatever soothes you the most, or a combination of it. There is, however, a certain emotional aspect to cuddling. When one ‘cuddles’ in a soothing way, the act usually generates a sort of inexplicable feeling. A natural comfort, or I could say a sort of contentment. But rather than just an emotional benefit, cuddling provides numerous little quirks and bonuses to those who do so happily.

The most physically visible effect of cuddling regularly, for the sake of enjoyment and contentment, is seen within the balance of a few different chemicals. An article byVanessa Van Edwards, written for the Science of People, explains these three in conjunctions. The main three effects upon hormones within the body are an increase in oxytocin, a reduction in serotonin, and an increase in dopamine. Strange words, so allow me a little of your time to explain.

Oxytocin is a hormone within the body researchers have been frantically researching for the past 20 years upon it’s beneficial effects to the human instinct of social interaction and ‘love’ when administered as a treatment. So far, researchers have concluded the chemical is a major influence upon someone’s proclivity to being social, to forming a bond, as well as the ability to pick up on social cues. Serotonin is a certain chemical that many would appreciate having less, however is still a necessary part of the psyche. Serotonin allows us to form anxious responses, and feel stress in times of… well… stress. Dopamine, a powerful substance, is responsible for pleasure; satisfaction of the self. When you generally feel a sense of having fun, you feel a release of dopamine. It is exciting, but too much for a harmful substance can form a dependance, also known as an addiction. It is best to obtain increases in dopamine through healthy activities such as exercise, cuddling, hobbies, etc.

Do not be ashamed of the desire to cuddle, even when an adult. Cuddling promotes safety, well-being, and good health for all, and even newborns or sick children. It aids in recovery, and helps mental health. When one inhibits the desire for contact, it suppresses these feelings into pent-up stress. This is no different than when told to ‘suck it up’, or denied the ability to release emotion. There is no shame to be had in the relieving contact with another, or another comfortable entity, for it is healing and allows you to perform your absolute best.

What if you do not have a Cuddle Buddy?

Stay tuned to Part 2 of this series on Cuddle Therapy.

Kindness in Anger and Conflict

What place is there for kindness amongst a mire of resentment and fiery anger? How is kindness, such a small effect and action undergone in a habitual manner, such a pivotal force when suffering from conflict with your partner, or even your friend? Kindness, politeness, and caring is of paramount importance when moving through conflict with your partner, and helping to prioritize the relationship rather than the anger or frustration.

In the words Sanaa Hyder, M.S.Ed., “One of the hardest things to do in a relationship is to be nice to your partner when you’re upset with them”. People, without exemption, have an incorrigible tendency to let annoyance, sadness, or other negative emotions twist into resentful anger towards the ones closest to us. It is a burden we all bear, and something that may sometimes complicate the struggles that arise within relationships with each other. There is nothing worse than compounding anger and problems, no? But there are means by which partners overcome this instinct, means in order to show gratitude and kindness in the heat of the argument.

The conundrum can be simplified into three main components of which are outlined by Sanaa Hyder. The first is to think positive thoughts. Strange, but it is necessary. The human mind will subconsciously influence decisions with what the mind prefers to focus upon. Thus, if you maintain a mindset focusing on the negative qualities of your partner, it is a recipe for disaster and attacking those faults when conflict arises.

The second method that is commonly forgotten, or conveniently, is to take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, actions, decisions, and others effects you have brought about. No one individual is faultless, emotionless, or has nothing to own up to when conflict is thrown in one’s face. When you make a mistake, say something hurtful, or realize something of your emotions, you must take ownership of the factor. This action shows integrity, and willing to admit wrongdoing or regretful actions, rather than lashing out in hot fury.

The final method most may adopt, is to, in the words of Hyde, ‘Let Hope Win’. This statement is vague, so allow me to explain. When someone opens the door for you out of courtesy, yet offers a genuine smile, how is it that you feel? How is that you feel when you partner goes out of their way in order to arrive home early for more quality time? The feeling of warmth and comfort at a partner’s off-handed acts of kindness are what’s a key emotion to remind oneself of. Do not neglect to do these gestures of good faith, even when closeness is at an intolerable level. These acts remind both you and your partner that you care more for each other than the negative anger that plagues you both.

Conflict is unavoidable, inevitable, and there will be most assuredly a time in which it will become uglier than whatever one could imagine. But with good faith in the relationship, with comfort and kindness as a method of affirming your bonds, the anger will not throw a wrench in the bond you and your partner, or partners, have worked endless hours for.

Hyder, Sanaa. “How to Be Kind When You’re Upset With Your Partner.” The Gottman Institute, The Gottman Institute, 27 Dec. 2016, www.gottman.com/blog/how-to-be-kind-when-youre-upset-with-your-partner/.