“Repairs are the ‘lifejackets’ of all romantic relationships. Their effectiveness determines whether a relationship will live or die.” John Gottman
A few years ago my husband and I attempted to take a row boat down the Russian River. Neither of us was adept at rowing, and initially it looked like it would be a simple venture. Little did we know how important it would be to know the art of rowing; instead we struggled with the strong currents that were determined to drive us into low-hanging trees. Towards the end of the day we became irritated with each other as it was growing dark and we were cold and tired. During times of stress it is really easy to begin to feel unappreciated and find yourself arguing over little things. Looking for a way to appreciate your spouse at this time can go a long way. My favorite appreciation during that day was when my husband would say, ‘I love you’ and he followed with, ‘Let’s find our common ground here.’ It also helped immensely when we just laughed at ourselves.
You may feel as if you have already been rowing hard in your relationship. Even happy couples have times when they argue or fight. Learning to adopt the practice of making and receiving quick repairs can be the lifesaver to change your course. Repair attempts are a simple messages one person sends to the other to calm the negative interaction between them. A necessary key to making a successful repair is for the other person to receive the repair when it is offered. Repair gestures can seem minuscule, but in reality they are very powerful. Here are some examples from John Gottman’s “Repair Checklist”, found in his book The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.
15 POSSIBLE REPAIR ATTEMPTS:
- Let me try again.
- I am sorry. Please forgive me.
- Did I do something wrong?
- Please say that more gently.
- Let’s compromise here.
- I never thought of things that way.
- I agree with part of what you are saying.
- Can you make things safer for me?
- Tell me you love me.
10. I am feeling flooded.
11. Let’s take a break.
12. I see your point…
13. Can I take that back?
14. I know this isn’t your fault.
15. I love you.
3 SIMPLE STEPS TO START MAKING REPAIRS:
- Agree with your spouse that you will learn to give and receive a repair attempt during disagreements.
- Rehearse some of the repair scripted phrases which will help you be prepared to use one in the future.
- Don’t forget to bring the power of laughter into your situation. Example, “This is repair attempt #645!”
The well-known love Scripture from 1 Corinthians, lays out for us the greatest repair, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” Take time to read this Scripture again with fresh eyes.