Updated: Nov 13, 2019
One couple recently asked about something they heard from their friends. Their friends, who happened to be a straight couple going through a marriage prep workshop, learned that one way to reduce the intensity of your arguments was to strip naked during a heated debate.
My first thought was, "I hope you only fight at home..."
Where does this idea fall within the Gottman Method (which we utilize successfully in all our clinics)?
Fighting naked is a kind of "repair attempt". What John Gottman, the country's leading relationship researcher, found was that couples who have stable and happy relationships recognize when their interaction isn't going well, and they make small attempts to backtrack.
The goal is to lighten the intensity, and click the argument into more productive territory.
That in mind, fighting naked could possibly apply, depending on the couple. If your partner stripped during an argument, and this caused a bit of a positive interruption, then you have successfully employed a "repair attempt".
What are easier (read: clothed) repair attempts that you can do in the car, or at a restaurant?
Say comments like, "Let's back up and try this all over again," or, "I need to take a break and circle back to this later," or, "I'm trying to understand your perspective. Let's come at this differently..."
Non-verbal gestures can sometimes be a repair attempt, if well received. One husband recently looked at his partner in session, and made a silly face while putting his glasses on. This gesture, with the face, was actually an inside joke referencing how much the partner disliked his husband's new glasses. The attempt lightened the mood, and they tried the discussion again.
Briefly changing the conversation. The trick, though, is to circle back when cooler heads prevail.
What are your repair attempts? One of my favorites is, "I agree with part of what you're saying; let me see if I understand..."
Good luck to you and your partner,
Sam G. Executive Director Gay Couples Institute