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Sorry is Repair

We all have our own triggers for conflict. Most couples fight on occasion and are often not terribly kind to each other when they do. John Gottman suggests that in successful relationships it is not that we fight that is the problem, it’s the way that fights are handled. Conflict, however, doesn’t just come out of the blue. It can be seen as part of a repeating cycle of rupture and repair. The couples that get it right learn from this cycle and use it to enhance intimacy; the couples that don’t learn are likely to repeat it in perpetual cycles of misery and frustration.

The diagram below shows the process from harmony to disharmony via relationship ruptures and the pathway from dissatisfaction back to satisfaction via the steps of repair. When we understand this process, this could help us find a way to make our relationship more harmonious and our fights less destructive. We would then spend less time in a state of disharmony and learn how to recover from conflict more quickly when it does occur. If we fail to understand it and change it, then we could end up in the unhappy state that some couples arrive at where they spend very little time in a state of satisfaction and find it easy to be dislodged back into disharmony, from which they then find it very hard to escape.

Figure 1: The cycle of rupture and repair in close relationships (Grimmer, 2019)

There isn't space here to go into a lot of explanation. If you wish to know more I would suggest finding a qualified counsellor (such as BACP, UKCP, Relate, Corst) to work with you. A couples / relationship counsellor can help with communication between couples.


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