Gottman found that by observing the first three minutes of a conflict conversation, he could predict not only how the rest of the conversation would go, but also how the relationship would go 6 years down the road…with high accuracy!
He found that couples who approach conflict gently by explaining how they are feeling about a situation, rather than by bringing up a flaw in the other person’s character had a much better chance of success.
For example, saying something like ” I’m frustrated because the bills aren’t paid” works out better for the couple than saying something like “You’re so lazy, why haven’t you paid the bills yet?”
Being specific about the problem that you want changed is also key in conflict. The more specific you are, the easier it is for your partner to know what to do differently in the future.
For example saying “You need to be more responsible” is vague and unsurprisingly ineffective because it doesn’t give your partner much direction. However saying something like “It would be so helpful for me if you could pay the bills by the end of the week”. This is a much easier for your partner to change as it is clear and direct.
You may not be able to completely avoid conflict in your relationship (as even the strongest relationships have conflict) but you can control how you approach the conflict. This is important because you don’t want to keep repeating the same negative approach as Gottman has shown that this can have a devastating impact on the relationship.
So remember to gently talk about the situation as opposed to a flaw in your partner and to be specific.
The Psychologist, Shirley Glass found that betrayed partners almost always suffered from a form of PTSD.
In a similar way to how a soldier may feel after returning from war, betrayed partners are hyper-vigilant and on guard for enemies hiding behind every tree.
They may also experience flashbacks or intrusive negative thoughts in which they imagine their spouse together with the other person.
These thoughts often bring on bouts of rage, panic or numbness. They may also suffer from nightmares and insomnia.
No matter how many times their spouse apologizes, their intrusive thoughts are difficult to stop. They are at the mercy of their PTSD.
It is important to take your feelings seriously and not to expect yourself to just ‘get over it’. This is a difficult time and seeing a therapist might help you to make sense of what is going on.
Minuchkin famously said that “Every marriage is a mistake it’s how you deal with it that matters”. Here’s what I think Minuchkin was getting at.
All couples will have perpetual unresolved problems. Yes some couples may have fewer of these than others, but no relationship, no matter how great, can ever be entirely free of these.
This is because, unlike the belief passed on to us through pretty much every soppy love song throughout time, there are no perfectly complimentary couples. No two puzzle pieces that fit together and complete one another.
Don’t worry, this is a good thing, I promise, because it means that you are already a whole human. You don’t need to find someone else to complete you, you are whole in and of yourself.
It also means that you and your partner will sometimes clash. Friction is inevitable, it’s how you deal with it that really counts.
So next time you and your partner find yourselves clashing over something, don’t spend energy getting angry with yourself for clashing, accept that this is a normal part of being in a relationship and devote your energy to dealing with the issue at hand.