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  • How NOT to Fight With Your Sweetheart

    Take it from Dr. John Gottman: Conflict can be done right, but it can be done very, very wrong.

    How NOT to fight with your sweetheart? Try two of Gottman’s evidence-based suggestions.

    #1: Don’t get defensive. You might notice you’re saying, “Yes, but . . . ” or making excuses, providing rationale, or justifying your choices.

    Now, there is a time for providing the backstory for why you did what you did. (Wait on that part; save it for when you are both feeling heard and respected.) 

    Accept some responsibility for what happened–even if it’s just a tiny percent of what happened. Save the backstory for later. 

    It might sound like this: 

    “Yes, you’re right– I was late. I said I’d be on time and I was a few minutes late.”

    “Yes, I said I’d clean up the dinner mess. I didn’t get to the sticky counters–that part is definitely correct.” 

     By accepting some responsibility, you are diffusing the argument and using what Gottman says is an antidote to defensiveness. 

    Sometimes, in order to get composed to speak intentionally, you need to get grounded. It’s a way of settling your mind and body so you can act with discernment. 

    #2: Stear clear of criticism. Criticism of the person’s character isn’t helpful. Saying, “You’re so lazy,” shames your sweetie and amps up the fighting.

    To get your point across, begin with how you feel and then state the problem ( and perhaps offer a solution).  As you begin, use what Gottman calls a Gentle Start-Up. The Gentle Start-Up is being kind in your tone while showing understanding of the other person. 

    It might sound like this:

    “I feel taken for granted when the kitchen’s isn’t cleaned 100% after you said you would do it. If you can’t do it, please text me and I’ll come home early to work on it.”

    “I get annoyed when you don’t pick up what I asked you to buy for me. If you predict that you won’t be able to run the errand for me, next time call me and I’ll go get it.”

      The antidote to criticism is expressing your feelings, wants, and needs, Gottman says. Your listener does not need to guess what you’re thinking.