Doing Life Together

Doing Life Together

10 Emotional Repairs for Relationship Conflict

argueYou are in the middle of a fight. Temperatures are rising and you know this isn’t going well.

How can you bring down the tension and allow reason to prevail?

You make what we call in therapy, an emotional repair.

Couples who do this, stay together. In fact, martial researcher, John Gottman, calls emotional repairs the “life jackets of all romantic partnerships.” An emotional repair can move you from NASTY  to NICE  during a conflict.

Here are 10 emotional repairs that Gottman suggests to use during a conflict. These repairs don’t usually solve the conflict, but they do lower the tension enough for the two of you to have a better dialogue. And that is the point. All couples have conflict, but how they dialogue around the conflict is what matters.


1) Agree to something your partner is saying. Is there one thing that has any merit? If so, agree to that.

2) Ask an open ended question about your partner’s feelings. This signals listening and understanding.

3) Express some type of affection during a conflict.

4) Change the topic to something unrelated or minor. This calms things down for the moment, then return to the argument with a better frame of mind.

5) Agree to make some positive change. Be responsive where you can.

6) Use humor. This usually breaks tension.

7) Talk about your thoughts and feelings regarding the conflict.

8) Take responsibility for your part of the problem. Conflicts are not usually one sided.

9) Communicate empathy and understanding.

10) Talk in terms of the relationship, WE not I.

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