“Like the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says that in closed energy systems things tend to run down and get less orderly, the same seems to be true of closed relationships like marriages. My guess is that if you do nothing to make things get better in your marriage but do not do anything wrong, the marriage will still tend to get worse over time. To maintain a balanced emotional ecology you need to make an effort—think about your spouse during the day, think about how to make a good thing even better, and act.” ~John M. Gottman.

Relationships require work and commitment from both parties in order to be successful. While they can be challenging at times, particularly when there is a disagreement, the outcome of these situations can depend on the individual resources, insights, understanding, and attachment style of each person. Effective communication and conflict resolution skills are key to navigating these challenges, but it can be difficult to remain regulated and level-headed when our nervous system is flooded with stress. It's important to understand the role that our past experiences and learned communication patterns play in these moments, and to work on becoming more self-aware and reflective in order to improve the way we interact with our partners. 

Because relationships can be influenced by a variety of factors such as ingrained behaviors, insecure attachment styles, external life demands, and unresolved trauma, they can be challenging at times. It can be helpful to regularly check in with your partner and establish a routine of stress-reducing conversation. It's also important to learn to listen without immediately offering advice, and to be clear about your intentions when communicating with your partner. Sometimes it's enough to simply be present and listen, while other times you may need to specifically ask for support or a solution. It can be helpful to be aware of your own conflict resolution style, and to work on any patterns of criticism, rejection, projection, blaming, or avoidance that may not be productive in resolving conflicts.

Yes, it's important to recognize that our reactions and behaviors in conversations and conflicts often happen automatically, and are not necessarily intentional. Taking a moment to pause and notice what's going on inside ourselves, including any triggers or strong emotions, can help us to respond more effectively and create a sense of calm and regulation. Once we are able to regulate ourselves, we can then continue the conversation in a more productive and collaborative way. This can be a helpful first step in resolving conflicts and improving communication in relationships.

Gottman Approved Member