Are you still avoiding conflict with your wife?
You’re losing out on a huge opportunity to increase attraction and connection.
Take this quiz!
Okay, if you guessed … a. ‘to win her over to my point of view’ or d. to solve the problem … even though those are really logical guesses … you’re mostly wrong.
69% of all marital arguments are largely unsolvable.
If you guessed … h. ‘all of the above’ … well, you’re trying to avoid conflict even with an online quiz. You need this. Keep reading.
If you guessed either … c. ‘to express my anger’, or e. ‘to make her feel small’ … my guess is you’ve got some serious ‘silent seething’ going on. You really need this. Keep going.
If you guessed … g. ‘both b & f’ … you’re absolutely right!
Maybe you’ve already read here how productive conflict actually creates attraction and builds connection in a marriage.
#1 Goal of Conflict Resolution is to Increase Connection
Still avoiding conflict with your wife – change your goal
Solving a particular problem isn’t the goal.
You’re never going to solve most of your conflicts. Remember, 69% of all marital conflict are largely unsolvable.
Your main goal in any interaction or conflict is to increase attraction and connection.
Instead, you want both you and your wife to feel heard and valued.
Fight in productive ways and connection grows, even when you don’t solve the specific conflict.
The Key Difference in Happy & Unhappy Couples
Still avoiding conflict with your wife?
Dr. John Gottman, a world-renowned psychologist and marriage therapist, discovered the key difference between happy and unhappy couples.
Dr. Gottman began long-term studies of couples back in the 1970’s. He brought couples into his ‘Love Lab’ and asked them to solve a conflict in their relationship in 15 minutes while he taped them and analyzed their interactions. The he ‘released them into the wild’ and followed them for the next few decades.
He was able to predict with 90% accuracy which couples would stay together, and which would divorce.
The balance between positive and negative interactions during conflict.
The ‘Magic Ratio’ is 5:1
The couples who had maintained at least 5:1 positive to negative interactions during their conflict were still happily together.
For every negative interaction during a conflict, a stable marriage needs 5+ positive interactions to every 1 negative interaction.
Less than 5 to 1 positive to negative interactions increases likelihood of divorce.
Why the Ratio Is So High
Why such a stark imbalance? Why can’t you say something negative, make a joke to counteract it, and everything is good?
Negativity Bias – the human brain is wired to scout out the bad stuff and hyper-focus on threats. And our psyche views sarcasm, criticism, and contempt as threats to not only our marriage, but to our very existence.
We are dealing with high-powered stuff here. We have to treat our partners gently and with kindness to have any chance at a long-term, successful marriage.
Negative interactions are powerful. They inflict much more damage and pain than positive interactions can correct.
Conflict Resolution – Productive Techniques
Still avoiding conflict with your wife – try this
Let’s get down to actual technique now. Here’s your primer.
1. Start Soft
Conflicts usually end up on the same note they began.
Your very first sentence should draw her in instead of immediately putting her on the defensive.
“I’m really pissed at you, and we need to talk.”
“I love you and I care enough about this relationship that I want to discuss something that’s bothering me. I don’t want to stay silent and let it fester.”
2. Use ‘I’, Not ‘You’
Start your sentences with ‘I’, not ‘you’. Focus not on her actions, but on how you feel about what she did/didn’t do.
“You suck at making anniversaries special. You never do anything fun.”
“I feel like our marriage isn’t a priority for you when you don’t do want to do anything special on our anniversary.”
3. Get Her Perspective
The male and female brains work so differently, we might as well be a different species. The one guarantee is that whatever you’re thinking her motivations are … you’re probably wrong.
So, you need to come out and just ask her.
“I know exactly why you don’t put any effort into helping me clean up. You could care less about how much the clutter bugs me.”
“Maybe we have different ideas about what constitutes clutter. Can you give me your perspective?”
4. Own Your Part
You’ve likely contributed to the problem in various ways … not addressing it quicker, not setting reasonable boundaries, giving mixed messages, etc.
It’s okay to acknowledge this, but don’t allow it to derail the conversation from what needs to happen.
“Well, I guess I was ignoring you, so I can see why you wanted to go flirt with that guy.”
“I understand you wanted more attention from me, but that doesn’t make it okay to flirt with other men.”
5. Take a Break if You Get Heated
Take time out if things heat up and you feel yourself overwhelmed with emotions (known as ‘flooding’).
Go take a walk, listen to music, pet your dog, whatever soothes you. Meditation is especially effective.
Arrange to meet back up after the break.
Dr. Gottman found that 20 minutes is the perfect amount of time away when you’re feeling flooded. (Men take a bit longer to calm down after an argument because of biological differences.)
6. De-escalate & Repair Damage
Once you’re back, moderate the tension and do some damage control. Admit your part in it all getting so heated and avoid blaming her exclusively.
“I’m sorry, but you make me so crazy when you’re irrational.”
“I’m sorry I got so heated. I was feeling overwhelmed. Let’s try again.”
7. Set Expectations for the Future
A lot of times, it’s enough to simply state how you feel and sort out misunderstandings, but sometimes, you need to set your future expectations. Especially true when you’ve hit a deal-breaker.
You need to do it gently, but firmly.
“If you flirt with another guy again, I’m seeing a lawyer.”
“If you need more attention from me, tell me. But flirting with other guys is a deal-breaker. Our marriage isn’t sustainable if you continue with that.”
Anger Isn’t a Deal-Breaker
Interestingly enough, even though anger feels negative, anger alone isn’t a deal-breaker unless it’s defensive or accompanied by criticism or contempt.
Anger is actually useful because it’s an excellent signal that something is amiss, that someone has crossed one of your boundaries.
Similar to feeling pain from an injury. You need that pain to know something is physically amiss in your body.
Stop ignoring your anger and resentment and start addressing them.
Identify, analyze, and address your anger.
No More Silent Seething – Rule of 3
Still avoiding conflict with your wife – use this rule
Jordan Peterson has a great model to follow … the Rule of 3.
If the same behavior bothers him for the third time, he knows it’s something he has to address to avoid the ‘silent seething’ that comes from feeling resentful.
What is a negative interaction? It all feels pretty negative when we’re fighting!
- Using a harsh start-up
- Not acknowledging her feelings and concerns
- Interrupting her
- Trying to ‘score points’ off her
- ‘Gotcha’ moments
- Raising your voice
- Lashing out instead of taking a time-out
Some behavior goes beyond simply negative into literal marriage killers.
Dr. Gottman calls them the ‘Four Horsemen’, and you’ve got to avoid them at all costs.
Defensiveness is a failure to even consider whether you’ve played a role in the current conflict and almost always escalates conflict as she feels she has to double down on her criticism to get a response from you.
It’s okay to object or even complain about her behavior but avoid criticizing her core character.
Contempt is the most extreme form of criticism. It basically says she is not worthy of your time or attention.
Stonewalling is when you withdraw from the conflict, stop responding, and shut down. People normally stonewall when they feel overwhelmed by emotions or ‘flooded’.
Instead of stonewalling her, say this, “Okay, I’m feeling too angry to keep talking about this. Let’s take a 20-minute break and come back to it.”
Pick Your Poison
All marriages have ongoing conflict. You have no choice about that.
Your only choice is how you’re going to address the conflict. Are you going to ignore, delay, and deny until the conflict grows to unmanageable levels?
Are you going to address conflict destructively until it breaks the marriage?
Or are you going to learn how to manage your conflict and lead your wife into productive conflict resolution?
You’ll actually keep attraction and connection alive and thriving!
Pick your poison. The choice is yours.
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