John Gottman, one of the leading researchers and theorists in the field of couple’s therapy has reported that we need a ratio of 5:1 positive moments to negative moments to prevent divorce or separation. Unfortunately many of the couples that we first work with feel like they are stuck in an endless pattern filled only with negative moments. How can couples create more positive moments in their relationship and end the constantly negativity that drains their energy and the love they have for one another?
We believe at A Path of Heart Counselling that a large part of the problem is that couples do not know how to effectively repair conflicts, so when then they have a conflict they are just left with a lot of hurt feelings and anger. Being stuck in these feelings for any amount of time, only leads to further negative feelings, conflicts, and hopelessness. Learning how to do an conflict repair helps couples to reconnect, find their way back to closeness which in turn, increases compassion and positive moments and helps them to maintain a long-term relationship. There are many benefits to repairing conflicts, this article is written to help you understand some of the benefits and motivate you to repair conflicts with your loved one as soon as possible.
Benefits of repairing conflicts include:
- Both people’s feelings are heard and validated. Couples stay angry and distant for long painful periods of time when they try and deal with their feelings on their own. By doing an effective conflict repair both people’s feelings are listened to and validated, which not only calms your body but also makes you feel cared about and heard.
- Promotes compassion, understanding and acceptance for each other. As human beings in relationship we can not help to react sometimes in anger when we are feeling afraid our attachment needs will not be met. Sitting down and talking about it helps the other partner to understand and have compassion for why you may have become angry. For example: A woman partner calls out to her husband for help, the male partner responds with anger and annoyance, “WHAT!!” The woman feels hurt and neglected and afraid that her partner can’t be there for her. After sitting down to repair the woman hears that her husband was also feeling afraid that thought she was trying to control him and make him stop what he was doing. In turn, she more fully understands his feelings and reaction. By doing a conflict repair you can reach a better place of compassion and understanding (which promotes forgiveness and letting go) of why your partner may have reacted (instead of being stuck thinking that he/she is mean or disrespectful).
- End the disconnection and feel close and connected again. Research shows that when we are disconnected from our partners we don’t just feel annoyed but we can often feel knots in our stomach, or sick inside. Couples stuck in disconnection are more likely to feel less cared about and loved thus leading to more negative feelings and conflict. By doing a repair exercise we can end the disconnection and feel close and connected to our partners again which reduces further conflict.
- Gain more insight into deeper feelings and your partners sensitivities. By sitting down and talking about what happened we can come to understand our partner’s deeper feelings and sensitivities that cause them to react poorly. For example: One partner could have felt insignificant and uncared for as a child because they were left waiting time and time again to be picked up by a parent. They may have a real sensitivity or raw spot around being left to wait for even a short time. Coming to understand your partner’s raw spots and sensitivities helps you understand and have compassion for their feelings.
- Learn how to prevent future conflicts. By learning what our partner’s raw spots and sensitivities are you can try and prevent the same conflicts in the future. You can work with your partner to understand what gets you stuck in conflict and plan ways to detour away from negative patterns when raw spots get triggered.
- Build trust and security in your relationship that your partner cares about you and can be there for you. A large part of conflicts come from attachment fears that people carry around feeling afraid that their partner does not care about them or maybe can not really be there for them. Doing effective conflict repair counters those fears and builds trust in the relationship that you can work through any future conflicts together.
- Stop feeling angry and hopeless. Once you feel like your partner is there for you, they understand what you are feeling and they care about you and your attachment needs and fears, it helps to let go of feelings of anger and hopelessness.
- The more you do it, the easier and faster it becomes. Over time many couples will memorize the structure of doing an effective conflict repair. They no longer need to look at the sheet to figure out the next step, they are able to move towards each other and ask their partner to repair with them and reconnect so they do not have to be alone. They begin to trust in the exercise that even if they do not repair in that moment they will very soon and everything will once again be ok between them again.
- Maintain a long-term relationship. When you regularly repair conflicts you reduce the amount of time that you are feeling disconnected and you learn how to wipe the slate clean. Couples that have a tendency to avoid dealing with conflicts can often try and sweep things under the rug instead of dealing with them directly. This causes a lot of unresolved feelings and fears that you may not be able to get your needs met in your relationship and can also cause people to develop a negative perspective of their partner. Repairing conflicts helps to wipe the slate clean, resolve issues and get the reassurance that you will get your needs met.
As you can see there are many positive benefits to learning how to repair conflicts with your partner. The number one benefit is that you can create trust and security in your relationship and make it last long-term. You too can learn how to effectively repair conflicts with your partner. Please email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a conflict repair that you can print out and try with your partner. If you find that you are still struggling with the repair we can help you learn how to do it more effectively in couple’s therapy or we will also be teaching how to do an effective conflict repair exercise at our next Hold Me Tight Couples Weekend coming up in February 2012. Please call 250-863-7863 to preregister or book a session with one of us.
Robin Menard MSW RCC RSW
Marriage and Couple Specialist
A Path of Heart Counselling Services