When couples fight, they focus on the negative parts of the conflict and miss the opportunities for what they agree on.
When you seek opportunities for agreement and express yourself accordingly, you are showing that you see your spouse’s viewpoint as valid and that you care about them.
An alliance in conflict, even minor, can fundamentally shift how couples fight.
6. Empathize and Apologize
Empathy is one of the deepest forms of human connection.
When you empathize with your spouse, you show that you understand and feel what your partner is feeling, even if you express empathy non-verbally through a facial expression or a physical gesture.
Saying things like, “It makes sense to me that you feel…” will help your partner see that you are on their team.
Empathy is a profound connecting skill that all romantic partners can and should improve, and there is no limit to the amount of empathy you can express.
And, if your partner is upset with something you said or did, simply apologize. If you can find a moment during the conflict to say “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. That makes me sad,” you will provide a positive and empathetic interaction that reinforces your bond.
7. Accept Your Partner’s Perspective
An approach that drastically improves conflict is understanding that each of your perspectives is valid, even if they are opposed to each other.
While you may not agree with your partner’s perspective, letting them know that their perspective makes sense will show them that you respect them.
One of the best ways to do this is to summarize your spouse’s experience during a conflict, even if you disagree. Remember that validation doesn’t mean agreement, but it does signal respect.
8. Make Jokes
Playful teasing, silliness, and finding moments to laugh together can ease tension in a heated conflict. Most couples have inside jokes they only share with each other. This highlights the exclusivity a couple has.
However, a word of caution: remember to find a way to joke around that maintains respect and appreciation for your spouse and that serves to bring you both closer together.
Test Your Ratio
Is your relationship unbalanced? Observe how you and your partner interact. For every negative interaction that happens, are there more positive interactions?
If not, take it upon yourself to create more positive interactions in your relationship, and also try to notice the small moments of positivity that currently exist there, and that you may have been missing.
Keep a journal for one week that notes the positive interactions, however small, in your marriage.
As Dr. Gottman’s research has revealed, the more positive actions and feelings you can create in your marriage, the happier and more stable your marriage will be.
This article was originally published on The Gottman Relationship Blog.
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