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Archive for July, 2014

Solving Solvable Conflict

Posted on Sunday, July 20th, 2014 by Sanctuary staff

couple.conflict.David.Castillo.Dominicby Darcy

This article continues my series on The Sound Relationship House. The Sound Relationship House (SRH) is a model for looking at relationships that emerged out of years of marriage research conducted by Dr. John Gottman and the Relationship Institute. Level five of the SRH is Effective Conflict Regulation. The word “regulation” may jump out at you. Why not effective conflict resolution? As discussed in the last newsletter the research shows that about 69% of relationship conflict are perpetual problems that do not get resolved. We looked last time at some helpful ways to approach those conflicts.

Doing the math, 31% of marital conflict is then “solvable”. What do we do with that conflict? The research demonstrated four ways successful, happy couples regulate conflicts. First, the researchers discovered that conflicts usually end in the manner in which they begin. Therefore, a Softened Start-Up is bringing problems up in a gentle way. Complain about something specific but don’t blame the other person. Second, Accept Influence by be willing to see how your spouse’s view might be valid. There is no absolute truth in a conflict. In a fight many of us think our task is to help our partner see how we are right. However, understanding your partner’s point of view and communicating that understanding to your partner is a more effective tool that “being right” for conflict regulation.

Third, Repair the interaction and De-escalate the conflict. Sometimes conflict becomes very negative and a repair attempt is needed. The Gottman Repair checklist (Bringing Baby Home Couples Workbook, p. 117) is a research-based list of phrases that can help get a conversation back on track. You can see the full Repair Checklist here. These phrases continue to build the opportunity for communication between you and your spouse. It may feel unnatural to use these at first but learning how to use a new tool takes practice. It will feel more natural over time.

The fourth and final step is discovering the common ground that exists with your partner and reaching a compromise. “Yield to Win…To be influential, you must accept influence,” (Bringing Baby Home Couples Workbook, p. 118) is a principle highlighting what works in relationships. To yield to win, consider some of these questions: How can we emotionally support each other on this issue? How can we honor each person’s position? What feelings do we have in common? What goals do we have in common? Where is there overlap in our position? How can our common goals be accomplished? Can we develop a plan for compromise?

As you work through these questions keep in mind the first three steps, revisiting them when necessary. Also, remember to take a break if either of you gets overwhelmed or flooded, but have a set time to come back together. Like any skill it may take time and practice to fine tune and master these constructive problem solving tools. Be patient with yourself and your spouse. Be willing to risk the awkward or uncomfortable to achieve the goal of being effective problem solvers. If conflict is inevitable then learning to work through the solvable problems effectively with your spouse is a skill-set worth having!

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Helping marriages regulate conflict

Posted on Sunday, July 13th, 2014 by Sanctuary staff

by Darcy
John Gottman, PhD and his team studied the “Masters and Disasters” of relationships over the span of 35 plus years and were able to predict with 94% accuracy which couples would stay together and which would divorce. Gottman dubbed the couples who stay together and are fairly satisfied with their relationships “Masters” and those whose relationships end or stay together and are very unhappy “Disasters.”

Through this research Gottman developed a seven-level relationship model called The Sound Relationship House. In past newsletters I have shared a bit about the first four levels (read Darcy’s previous articles here). Starting with the foundation or the base of the theory, the four layers we have already looked at include

having a Love Map of your spouse’s inner world
communicating affection and respect which he calls the Fondness and Admiration System
building the Emotional BankAccount of the relationship through responding to your partner’s “bids” for connection
having the Positive Perspective of your relationship which can come naturally if the first three levels are attended to well
The fifth level of The Sound Relationship House is effectively regulating conflict. All couples have conflict. In fact, research shows that 69% of relationship conflicts are perpetual. Perpetual conflicts are due to the basic personality or lifestyle differences between partners; things that are unlikely to change, that lead to problems unlikely to be “solved.” A different spouse would only lead to a different set of perpetual problems.

Acceptance and a sense of humor are important parts of coping with perpetual problems. After all, you are choosing to stay with your spouse and your spouse’s personality (like your own) is unlikely to change. Accepting that the perpetual problem will always be part of your relationship allows more flexibility to bring grace and humor into an arena which might otherwise be filled with attempts to change your partner or their attempts to change you.

If this is what is needed to deal with 69% of relationship problems, what about the other 31% of problems which are “solvable”? Here are a few important pieces to understand that directly influence our ability to solve problems.

During conflict, men’s hearts rates often (not always) increase more than women’s, and they stay escalated longer. When our heart is beating faster, both men and women have a “fight or flight” response. In this state we have a harder time processing information, listening, and solving problems creatively. People in this state feel “flooded” or overwhelmed. When feeling flooded, many partners will withdraw to deal with the unpleasant feelings. In short, it is NOT a good time to solve a problem.

When either spouse feels flooded, it is time to take a good break: at least 20 minutes of separation with a specific plan to reunite and continue the conversation.

During the break, Self-Soothing is very important. Each partner must do something truly relaxing so both partners feel calm when you come back to the conversation. Attention to flooding, practicing self-soothing and learning to take effective breaks are helpful tools. In the next newsletter I’ll write more about the four essential steps to regulating conflict!

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Gottman Repair Checklist

Posted on Sunday, July 13th, 2014 by Sanctuary staff

I Feel

  1. 1. I’m getting scared
  2. 2. Please say that more gently.
  3. 3. Did I do something wrong?
  4. 4. That hurt my feelings.
  5. 5. That felt like an insult.
  6. 6. I’m feeling sad.
  7. 7. I feel blamed. Can you rephrase that?
  8. 8. Please don’t lecture me.
  9. 9. I don’t feel like you understand.
  10. 10.Sounds like it’s all my fault.
  11. 11. I feel criticized. Can you rephrase that?
  12. 12. I’m getting worried.
  13. 13. Please don’t withdraw.



  1. 1. My reactions were too extreme. Sorry.
  2. 2. I really blew that one.
  3. 3. Let me try again.
  4. 4. I want to be gentler to you right now and I don’t know how.
  5. 5. Tell me what you hear me saying.
  6. 6. I can see my part in all this.
  7. 7. How can I make things better?
  8. 8. Let’s try that one over again.
  9. 9. What you are saying is…
  10. 10. Let me start again in a softer way.
  11. 11. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.


Get To Yes

  1. 1. You’re starting to convince me.
  2. 2. I agree with part of what you’re saying.
  3. 3. Let’s compromise here.
  4. 4. Let’s find our common ground.
  5. 5. I never thought of things that way.
  6. 6. This problem is not very serious in the big picture.
  7. 7. I think your point of view makes sense.
  8. 8. Let’s agree to include both of our views in a solution.


I Need To Calm Down

  1. 1. Can you make things safer for me?
  2. 2. I need things to be calmer right now.
  3. 3. I need your support right now.
  4. 4. Just listen to me right now and try to understand.
  5. 5. Tell me you love me.
  6. 6. Can I have a kiss?
  7. 7. Can I take that back?
  8. 8. Please be gentler with me.
  9. 9. Please help me calm down.
  10. 10. Please be quiet and listen to me.
  11. 11. This is important to me. Please listen to me.
  12. 12. I need to finish what I was saying.
  13. 13. I am starting to feel flooded.
  14. 14. Can we take a break?
  15. 15. Can we talk about something else for awhile?


Stop Action!

  1. 1. I might be wrong here.
  2. 2. Please, let’s stop for awhile.
  3. 3. Let’s take a break.
  4. 4. Give me a moment, I’ll be back.
  5. 5. I’m feeling flooded.
  6. 6. Please stop.
  7. 7. Let’s agree to disagree here.
  8. 8. Let’s start all over again.
  9. 9. Hang in there. Don’t withdraw.
  10. 10. I want to change the topic.
  11. 11. We are getting off track.


I Appreciate

  1. 1. I know this isn’t your fault.
  2. 2. My part of this problem is…
  3. 3. I see your point.
  4. 4. Thank you for…
  5. 5. That’s a agood point.
  6. 6. We are both saying…
  7. 7. I understand.
  8. 8. I love you.
  9. 9. I am thankful for…
  10. 10. One thing I admire about you is…
  11. 11. I see what you mean.
  12. 12. This is not your problem, it’s OUR problem.
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