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The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work – Principle 5: Solve your Solvable Problems

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work – Principle 5: Solve your Solvable Problems

Last Updated on May 6, 2022 by admin

Solve your solvable problems. Sounds pretty intuitive right? Contrarily, John Gottman found that generally, couples often get off track while trying to settle disagreements and end up in screaming matches or blatantly ignoring each other. What could’ve been a productive conversation ends up being a sore spot, including the topic the fight was initially about.

This is why Gottman emphasizes to Solve your Solvable Problems. The difficulty is learning a new approach to settling conflict that doesn’t end in a competition over who can scream louder. Thankfully, Gottman has come up with a new model for resolving conflict, and it’s helped couples find a calmer and more successful way to resolve difficulties in the relationship.

There are five steps to this model:

  1. Soften your start-up

The best soft start-up has four rules:

      • “I share some responsibility for this…”
      • “Here’s how I feel…”
      • “About a specific situation…”
      • “Here’s what I need…”

Continue to approach topics in this manner, and you’ll see your partner begin to respond differently, making conflict resolution productive and meaningful for your relationship.

  1. Learn to make and receive repair attempts

When your partner gets defensive and says, “I wash the dishes after dinner at least a couple times a week”, don’t return with an exhaustive list of the things they don’t do, instead say “Yes, you’re right, you do”. This is a repair attempt! It cuts the tension and makes both of you more open to a compromise.

Gottman has found that emotionally intelligent couples not only conduct repair attempts but are also receptive to each other’s. Using them will keep discussions from spiraling out of control, leading to a calmer and more respectful conversation.

  1. Soothe yourself and each other

The best way to calm down during a fight is to soothe yourself. Do what you can do lower your heart rate (e.g., deep breathing, listening to soothing music, and other ways that have worked for you), then do the same for your partner. Once you’ve both calmed down, you’ll be in a much better spot to come to a resolution, benefitting your relationship.

  1. Compromise

There are very little objective truths in the world, but one of them is that for a marriage to succeed, there needs to be compromise. You don’t have to agree with everything your partner says but being open to considering their perspective is really what it’s about.

  1. Process any grievances so that they don’t linger

Even if you’re able to compromise on a solvable problem, these arguments in your relationship can still leave emotional scars. If these scars are not addressed, they can fester and cause emotional distance between the two of you. It’s perfectly normal to have these scars that need processing, and if you need supporting learning how to process wounds, consider working with an experienced couples therapist to guide you.

By following this model to resolve conflict in your relationship, you’ll be better able to calmly and respectfully address issues with your partner, making your solvable problems even more so.


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