Are Couples Fighting More? How To Fight and Stay Together In Turbulent Times

Conflicts are inevitable in the intricate dance of relationships. Yet, how we engage in these disputes can profoundly shape the course of our partnerships. In an interview conducted by Hope Reese for Greater Good Magazine with John and Julie Gottman, renowned for their groundbreaking research on relationship dynamics, we learn their insights, honed over decades of observation and analysis, that offer a beacon of guidance amidst the tumult of disagreements.

Understanding Today’s Relationship Battles

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In the wake of societal upheavals and personal challenges, conflicts within relationships have taken on new dimensions. The Gottmans share their insights in their latest book Fight Right: How Successful Couples Turn Conflict Into Connection note a surge in divisiveness, mirroring broader societal trends. Listening and understanding have become casualties on the battlefield of differing perspectives. Emerging from the shadows of the COVID-19 era, couples grapple with heightened stressors and strained familial dynamics.

Unraveling the Threads of Conflict: Perpetual vs. Solvable

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Central to the Gottman philosophy is the distinction between perpetual and solvable conflicts. Perpetual issues, comprising the majority of relational discord, stem from fundamental differences in personality or values. These persistent skirmishes often mask deeper underlying tensions, necessitating a nuanced approach for resolution. Unraveling the knots of perpetual conflicts demands introspection and a willingness to delve into the core of individual histories and aspirations.

Nurturing the Seeds of Connection

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Amidst the tempest of conflict, the Gottmans advocate for nurturing the seeds of connection. The ability to “turn toward bids for affection” is a cornerstone of relational resilience. Small gestures of empathy and attentiveness serve as building blocks for intimacy, fostering a sense of security and understanding. In the fertile soil of mutual responsiveness, conflicts find fertile ground for resolution.

Crafting Constructive Conversations: The First Three Minutes

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The Gottmans assert that the initial moments of a conflict wield disproportionate influence over its trajectory. Gentle and introspective beginnings pave the path for constructive dialogue. By articulating personal feelings and needs without resorting to blame, partners lay the groundwork for mutual understanding. Cultivating curiosity and active listening transforms conflicts into opportunities for growth and connection.

Navigating Emotional Storms: Recognizing Flooding

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In the tumult of conflict, individuals may experience “flooding,” a physiological response to feeling overwhelmed. Recognizing the signs of flooding—ranging from heightened heart rates to tunnel vision—equips partners with the awareness to intervene. Strategic timeouts, coupled with self-soothing practices, offer a respite from the storm, fostering emotional regulation and clarity.

You may want to read: 3 Simple Somatic Movements You Can Do To Calm Your Nervous System

Embracing Gender Dynamics: Harnessing Anger and Accepting Influence

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Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Gottmans highlight the positive role of anger, particularly among women, in relationships. When coupled with acceptance of influence, authentic expression of emotions cultivates relational resilience. Moreover, acknowledging gender differences in conflict styles—such as men’s propensity for stonewalling—fosters empathy and understanding.

Cultivating Gratitude and Vulnerability

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At the heart of the Gottman ethos lies a simple yet profound practice: gratitude. Daily expressions of appreciation fortify the bonds of intimacy, reinforcing the belief in one’s partner as an irreplaceable ally. Moreover, fostering open communication channels for grievances fosters commitment and trust, anchoring relationships amidst life’s inevitable storms.

According to the Gottmans conflicts are not merely stumbling blocks but opportunities for growth and connection. Armed with the guidance they provide, couples can learn to build a relationship of mutual understanding, resilience, and enduring love.

We encourage you to read the full interview on Greater Good here.  

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  • Robin Jaffin

    As the co-founder and managing partner of the digital media partnership Shift Works Partners, LLC through two online media brands, FODMAP Everyday® and The Queen Zone she has played a pivotal role in promoting dietary solutions for individuals with specific needs in the health and wellness industry as well as amplify the voices and experiences of women worldwide.

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