Is conflict in a couple a bad thing or a good thing?
John Gottman, a psychologist and mathematician, in a long study at the University of Washington, expounds a counterintuitive idea:
For the evolution of a couple, the conflict is necessary and healthy!
Sounds like something wrong here… I mean, isn’t it just not a bad thing to argue, but is it really advantageous? One nuance: the conflict is healthy, indeed. It’s ok to argue. But it matters a lot how you do it!
In other words, there are right and wrong ways to manage conflicts in the couple. You can argue in a destructive way for yourself and your partner or you can argue in a way that allows the relationship to grow and renew.
The purpose of this article is to help you exonerate yourself, in case you blame your frictions, misunderstandings, clichés, retorts or disputes with your partner. There is nothing wrong with having different opinions, different attitudes, towards a subject or being angry, nervous. You are allowed to argue!
But this is only the first step. The next step is to find out whether or not you fit into an effective conflict management style. It is possible that, spontaneously, you and your partner practice one of the three styles. Congratulations, your couple has a chance to be sustainable!
Evaluating how people manage conflicts in the couple, an evaluation that a very well-trained observer can make in 15 minutes, is a very good predictor of the couple’s stability. As a curiosity and a reason for envy for specialists, Gottman predicts with 91% accuracy whether a couple watched for 5 minutes in his laboratory in Seattle will divorce in the next 4 years. Not because he has “intuitions.” But because he has a method. This method can be learned! It is nothing esoteric and does not require magical psychologist skills. Anyone can learn it. Like any method, obviously, it must be practiced.
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