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Getting behind the conflict

April 12, 2011

A Great Idea …

“The first step toward breaking out of defensiveness is to no longer see your partner’s words as an attack but as information that is being strongly expressed …  Research shows that if you are genuinely open and receptive when your partner is expecting a defensive response, your partner is less likely to criticize you or react contemptuously when disagreements arise.” (John Gottman, Ph.D., leading marriage researcher, in his book Why Marriages Succeed or Fail pp. 92-93)


In Other Words …        

It is natural for us to defend ourselves when we feel attacked. But striking back at an “attacker” is not a good way to solve marital problems. If we can see past the attack to a hurt or need in our partner, we can solve a problem and strengthen a relationship.

How This Applies to You …

Next time you feel attacked, resist the urge to strike back. Take a deep breath. Try to understand your partner’s pain. Rather than argue about different perceptions, look for the need your partner is expressing to you. You can prepare for this by thinking through recent disagreements. Behind previous disagreements, can you see the requests your partner is making? Maybe she wants more of your time for fun activities together. Maybe he wants to be respected for what he does. Behind the “attack” there is probably a pain that is crying for your help.

To Find Out More …

For an excellent (and free!) program on marriage, see The Marriage Garden at Arkansas Families.

For excellent books focused on marriage, read Why Marriages Succeed or Fail by John Gottman or The Marriage Garden by H. Wallace Goddard and James P. Marshall.

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