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Updated: Aug 19, 2021

How should you and I approach the sticky situations that occur in marriages to somehow get to a marvellous marriage? In any relationship, marriage, friendship or family, there are plenty of opportunities for conflict to occur. Misunderstandings from miscommunication provide fodder for people problems.

Let’s look first at some specific predictors of problems in marriage and a general strategy to help get us out of the muddy mire of misunderstandings. The Gottman Institute run by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, have researched marriage for decades and suggest that the four main problem behaviours between couples that lead to divorce are: criticism, defending, stonewalling and the worst of the bad⸺ contempt. These each fuel the fires of feuds and need to be put out quickly as they can trigger really troublesome reactions in others that will lead to couple breakdown. We may do one or more of these at times in our close relationships but when they are repetitive, they erode trust, the building block of marriage.

Here is an example from my own life: I might feel rejected or unloved by critical or contemptuous words from my husband, so firstly I need to communicate what I’m feeling. If I don’t, things could escalate into a passive aggressive cycle, where I withdraw then explode at the least provocation. So to prevent this happening, I could say to my husband something like: ‘I feel rejected by those critical words spoken to me, and I become unhappy and depressed—what I really want when I’m feeling this way is to be shown understanding and care.’ In this statement, I have owned my feelings, not used the finger-pointing word ‘you’ but still have identified the offending behaviour and asked for what I need. This should hopefully work but if it doesn’t then restating it in other ways until we're heard, whilst keeping calm, could be helpful.

In addition to the above assertive statement, resolvi