The 3 Best Times to Deal with Relationship ProblemsBy Zach Brittle
Let's face it: happy marriages are not devoid of conflict. All couples argue. But here's the difference between happy couples and unhappy couples: happy couples argue well. They leverage conflict toward deeper connection and intimacy. During 35 years of research on the science of relationships, Dr. John Gottman discovered that about two-thirds of all relationship conflicts could be considered “perpetual” or “unsolvable”. This means that many of the issues you’re facing today are likely the same issues you were dealing with 3 years ago. And you’ll probably be wrestling with them 3 years from now.
When couples understand this reality they can focus on solving their solvable problems and creating dialogue around more pervasive issues. Still, conflict itself is unpleasant and even painful at times. In happy and healthy relationships, partners have effective strategies for mitigating that pain. As it turns out there are (at least) three perfect times to address conflict.
Before It Starts
The most powerful and lasting time to deal with conflict is before it ever occurs. Couples who are committed to a strong marital friendship can reduce the pain of conflict by minimizing its overall power. Dr. Gottman’s research revealed a 5 to 1 ratio between positive and negative interactions. In simplest terms, this means that a negative interaction costs about a nickel. But a positive interaction is only worth a penny.
Successful couples have consistent strategies for pouring positive energy into the relationship. They regularly show fondness and appreciation to their partners. They work to know their partner’s inner world. And they regularly anticipate and meet their partner’s needs. By doing so, they build up the balance in the emotional bank account, while also minimizing the impact of a negative interaction and the resulting pain of conflict. Nobody cares about losing a nickel when they’ve got $200 dollars in the bank!
So the first best time to address conflict is in the everyday moments before conflict ever arises. But what about when it does? The second best time to deal with the pain of conflict is during the argument itself.
During the Conflict
When the inevitable conflict does flare up, it’s important to acknowledge that escalation is your enemy. It bears repeating: Escalation is your enemy. Dr. Gottman notes that the number one thing couples a