Dr. John Gottman has clearly identified in his literature that "Repair Attempts" are necessary for a couple to be able to recover from conflict. I would like to explore a few different explanations for this relational dynamic, and how you can implement repair in your relationship.
I believe that each couple relationship will experience conflict. While disagreements, arguments may look different from one couple to the next, each couple will experience individual differences within the dyad which will result in some form of conflict. Because of this, we need ways of managing the homeostasis in the relationship in order to experience long term commitment and satisfaction.
When a conflict occurs, its a threat to the stability and safety in the relationship. Sometimes, conflict hardly scratches the surface of trust, and at other times, rattles the relationship to the core. I would propose that if a couple is capable of meeting or exceeding repair in a way that directly relates to the conflict, they can build their tolerance to conflict to the extent that the relationship is not only stabilized, but also reinforced against future conflicts.
This can be a very difficult thing to do. Conflict can hurt, and it typically feels as though you and your partner are on opposing teams. Repair has the ability to reset the relationship, and bring a sense of resolve to the conflict. The sooner the couple can initiate a repair, the more deliberate they can be in regards to re-establishing love, care, trust, understanding, and togetherness.
I have seen couple's struggle with engaging in conflict because they have little to no experience in repairing conflict. I have also seen couple's quickly engage in conflict, but then distance instead of draw closer to one another in the repair. I have also seen couple's who could engage one another with intense conflict, but also were highly confident that they would easily repair.
The next time you find yourself in a situation where you are in conflict with your partner, consider what you can do to match or exceed the conflict with an attempt to repair. You are not only resolving the current conflict, but more importantly, creating a relational dynamic which builds resilience against future conflicts.
If you or someone you know is in need of therapy to improve conflict and repair in relationships, feel free to contact me to setup an appointment.
Anthony T. Alonzo, DMFT, LMFT, CFLE