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Wednesday
Jul222009

Repair Attempts

I began my marital career, like many couples I suppose, with the belief that I would be able to circumvent all conflicts. Our love was so encompassing, there would be no need to clean up any conflicts. I notice that when I was in college I also embarked on a rather ambitious trip, 100 miles across Iowa on a bicycle, without a patch or tool kit. I made it intact, but not because I was prepared.

Most people have insurance, a fire extinguisher and a spare tire. These precautions are not the fallout of a pessimist, but the wisdom of a realist.

Research shows that happiness in marriage is not necessarily linked to a lack of noisy interchange. Some couples who describe themselves as satisfied are feisty in their fighting. Other couples who never argue admit to marital discord. One of the accurate measures of a successful relationship is the couple's agility with repair attempts.

In asking people about their methods of getting back on track after a conflict, I have noticed that some of the most skilled husbands and wives are not very aware of their own ability. It takes some reflection to track what has become second nature. They do it and continue to do it, because it works. But repair attempts are learnable just like fire extinguishers are for sale at your local hardware store. Here are a few ways that couples release the tension that comes up in daily difficulties.

  • Take a break...
  • Apologize...
  • Accept the apology...
  • Breathe...
  • Use humor...
  • Appreciation...
  • Touch...
  • Be affectionate...
  • Start over...
  • Look in each other's eyes...
  • Stop (criticism, accusations, defending)...
  • Find a point of agreement...
  • Physically move closer...
  • Lower your voice...
  • Lower your shoulders...
  • Be on the same side of the net...
  • Ask for gentleness...
  • Ask to be heard...
  • Ask for rephrasing...
  • Ask for help...
  • Express gratitude...
  • Feed back what you heard...
  • Brainstorm solutions...
  • Laugh...
  • Be silly...
  • Acknowledge we-ness...
  • Say I love you...
  • Express feeling flooded...
  • Stay present...
  • Change places physically...
  • Go outside...
  • Hug...
  • Read the Word...
  • Pray...

Perhaps you had fire drills in school when you were young. You practiced what you would do in an emergency because you probably wouldn't be operating on full brain power if there were actually a fire. Anyone who has ever flown knows the monologue about oxygen masks by heart. It can be time well spent to go over a plan for when all reason flies out the window. Without knowing you personally, I feel safe in predicting that in the next week you or your honey will ignite a little fire of feelings that, left unchecked, could leave one of you burned. Take some time together to talk about ways that can extinguish those outbursts while they still respond to baking soda.