How to resolve disagreements in marriage

6 Steps to Conflict Management in Marriage

TOUCH Family Life

When faced with a difference in opinion, we may get defensive about our views and sometimes hurt and put the other party down in the process. This can be detrimental to any marital relationship especially in the long run.

How then can you resolve conflicts amicably with your spouse instead of fighting it out over a heated argument? TOUCH Family explores this topic and shares some tips of conflict management in marriage.

Emotions can and do run high during a disagreement. But instead of raising your voice and pointing fingers, it would help to process and talk through your feelings with your spouse. Keep the tone of your voice in check. Try to practise mutual respect and self-control while addressing an issue.

What many people tend to do during conflicts is to keep a record of the other party’s past wrongdoings and use it against them. Bringing in past and unrelated events doesn’t help with resolving the issue at hand and should be avoided at all cost. Adopting a ‘give-and-take, agreeing-to-disagree’ approach might be a better way to sustain a relationship in the long run.

Additionally, taking a time-out when an argument gets too heated and exercising forgiveness are some ways to help a marriage thrive in the long run.

Couples can try the 6-Step Strategy to Conflict Management:

  1. Investigation

    Finding out all the facts and being very clear of what the conflict is about is the most important first step. There should be no blame pinned on each other at this stage.

  2. Choosing one issue

    If many issues arise, pick the most pressing issue to work on.

  3. Brainstorm for solutions

    This stage is where the couple will brainstorm and come up with possible solutions to the said problem.

  4. Agree on a solution

    The couple will then decide on the most viable solution and plan when and how to execute it.

  5. Do/Carry out the solution

    This is the action through which the couple will actually carry out the solution plan.

  6. Follow-up
    The couple will then take time to follow-up and review if the selected solution works.

(Adapted from PREP Version 8.0 Relationship Intelligence for Couples)

It may seem cumbersome to follow a 6-step strategy, but it can help you and your spouse to focus on resolving the issue as a team without getting distracted by finger pointing or personal attacks.

Most importantly, when conflicts seem too much to handle, focus on your spouse’s positive attributes and remind yourself of why you first fell in love with your spouse and got married. In this marriage, both of you are a team and this team can work towards a win-win situation in any given circumstance. To build your relationship, make it a point to affirm and appreciate your spouse daily for the many good things in him/her that are sometimes taken for granted.

Remember, no one is perfect and having disagreements in a relationship is inevitable. There’s always room for reconciliation when things go wrong between a couple. It takes maturity, time and effort to work through issues. Do not give in to pride, or allow anger and conflict to destroy your marriage.

Want to improve your relationship with your spouse? TOUCH Family is here to help. Contact us at 6709 8400 or [email protected] to find out about our counselling services.

Interested in equipping yourself with useful handles to strengthen your family? Check out our marriage courses and workshops here.

TOUCH Family aims to deliver impact to the community by building strong and fulfilling families, and promoting the well-being of individuals and families in need. It impacts 12,500 families and individuals each year through family-based services and programmes, and strives to provide a holistic integrated service to serve the needs of every person and family at every stage of their lives.

6 Steps for Resolving Conflict in Marriage

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Resolving Conflict

Dennis Rainey

·11 min read

Few couples like to admit it, but conflict is common to all marriages. We have had our share of conflict and some of our disagreements have not been pretty. We could probably write a book on what not to do!

Start with two selfish people with different backgrounds and personalities. Now add some bad habits and interesting idiosyncrasies, throw in a bunch of expectations, and then turn up the heat a little with the daily trials of life. Guess what? You are bound to have conflict. It’s unavoidable.

Since every marriage has its tensions, it isn’t a question of avoiding them but of how you deal with them. Conflict can lead to a process that develops oneness or isolation. You and your spouse must choose how you will act when conflict occurs.

Step One: Resolving conflict requires knowing, accepting, and adjusting to your differences.

One reason we have conflict in marriage is that opposites attract. Usually a task-oriented individual marries someone who is more people-oriented. People who move through life at breakneck speed seem to end up with spouses who are slower-paced. It’s strange, but that’s part of the reason why you married who you did. Your spouse added a variety, spice, and difference to your life that it didn’t have before.

But after being married for a while (sometimes a short while), the attractions become repellents. You may argue over small irritations—such as how to properly squeeze a tube of toothpaste—or over major philosophical differences in handling finances or raising children. You may find that your backgrounds and your personalities are so different that you wonder how and why God placed you together in the first place.

It’s important to understand these differences, and then to accept and adjust to them. Just as Adam accepted God’s gift of Eve, you are called to accept His gift to you. God gave you a spouse who completes you in ways you haven’t even learned yet.

We were no exception. Perhaps the biggest adjustment we faced early in our marriage grew out of our differing backgrounds. I grew up in Ozark, Missouri, a tiny town in the southwestern corner of the “Show-Me” state. Barbara grew up in a country club setting near Chicago and later in Baytown, Texas. Barbara came into our marriage a refined young lady. I was a genuine hillbilly.

It was as though we came from two different countries with totally different traditions, heritages, habits, and values. The differences became apparent early in our marriage. Take furniture, for example. Barbara had an Ethan Allen dream book and she was always looking at it. It was full of things made of solid cherry, solid walnut, solid mahogany. It was nothing for chairs to cost $189. 95—per leg.

I didn’t understand why she wanted to go buy this kind of stuff when, in southwest Missouri, you could go to K-Mart and get a formica table with chrome legs and six chairs! And for a lot less than $189.95. You can eat off that kind of table for years and it will never show any wear.
So, how did we compromise? We bought an antique and I was expected to refinish it—which created an opportunity for another major difference in our backgrounds to surface. Barbara’s father was an engineer. He is mechanically gifted, can fix anything, and actually enjoys it. I’m convinced he could fix a nuclear reactor.

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My dad had a background in sales. Fixing things was not his idea of fun. If bailing wire or a little duct tape wouldn’t work, he usually called the plumber or whatever repairman was necessary.
And so there we were, just married, with an antique table that needed refinishing. I went at it reluctantly, but I got it done. In some ways it saved our marriage in the early going.

Step Two: Resolving conflict requires defeating selfishness.

All of our differences are magnified in marriage because they feed what is undoubtedly the biggest source of our conflict—our selfish, sinful nature.

Maintaining harmony in marriage has been difficult since Adam and Eve. Two people beginning their marriage together and trying to go their own selfish, separate ways can never hope to experience the oneness of marriage as God intended. The prophet Isaiah portrayed the problem accurately more than 2,500 years ago when he described basic human selfishness like this: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). We are all self-centered; we all instinctively look out for number one, and this leads directly to conflict.

Marriage offers a tremendous opportunity to do something about selfishness. We have seen the Bible’s plan work in our lives, and we’re still seeing it work daily. We have not changed each other; God has changed both of us. The answer for ending selfishness is found in Jesus and His teachings. He showed us that instead of wanting to be first, we must be willing to be last. Instead of wanting to be served, we must serve. Instead of trying to save our lives, we must lose them. We must love our neighbors (our spouses) as much as we love ourselves. In short, if we want to defeat selfishness, we must give up, give in, and give all.

As Philippians 2:1-8 tells us:

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

To experience oneness, you must give up your will for the will of another. But to do this, you must first give up your will to Christ, and then you will find it possible to give up your will for that of your spouse.

Grab some ground rules to transform your fights into communication breakthroughs.

Step Three: Resolving conflict requires pursuing the other person.

Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” The longer I live the more I realize how difficult those words are for many couples. Living peaceably means pursuing peace. It means taking the initiative to resolve a difficult conflict rather than waiting for the other person to take the first step.

To pursue the resolution of a conflict means setting aside your own hurt, anger, and bitterness. It means not losing heart. My challenge to you is to “keep your relationships current.” In other words, resolve that you will remain in solid fellowship daily with your spouse—as well as with your children, parents, coworkers, and friends. Don’t allow Satan to gain a victory by isolating you from someone you care about.

Step Four: Resolving conflict requires loving confrontation.

Wordsworth said, “He who has a good friend needs no mirror.” Blessed is the marriage where both spouses feel the other is a good friend who will listen, understand, and work through any problem or conflict. To do this well takes loving confrontation.

Confronting your spouse with grace and tactfulness requires wisdom, patience, and humility. Here are a few other tips we’ve found useful:

  • Check your motivation. Will your words help or hurt? Will bringing this up cause healing, wholeness, and oneness, or further isolation?
  • Check your attitude. Loving confrontation says, “I care about you. I respect you and I want you to respect me. I want to know how you feel.” Don’t hop on your bulldozer and run your spouse down. Approach your spouse lovingly.
  • Check the circumstances. This includes timing, location, and setting. Don’t confront your spouse, for example, when he is tired from a hard day’s work, or in the middle of settling a squabble between the children. Also, never criticize, make fun of, or argue with your spouse in public.
  • Check to see what other pressures may be present. Be sensitive to where your spouse is coming from. What’s the context of your spouse’s life right now?
  • Listen to your spouse. Seek to understand his or her view, and ask questions to clarify viewpoints.
  • Be sure you are ready to take it as well as dish it out. You may start to give your spouse some “friendly advice” and soon learn that what you are saying is not really his problem, but yours!
  • During the discussion, stick to one issue at a time. Don’t bring up several. Don’t save up a series of complaints and let your spouse have them all at once.
  • Focus on the problem, rather than the person. For example, you need a budget and your spouse is something of a spendthrift. Work through the plans for finances and make the lack of budget the enemy, not your spouse.
  • Focus on behavior rather than character. This is the “you” message versus the “I” message again. You can assassinate your spouse’s character and stab him right to the heart with “you” messages like, “You’re always late—you don’t care about me at all; you don’t care about anyone but yourself.” The “I” message would say, “I feel frustrated when you don’t let me know you’ll be late. I would appreciate if you would call so we can make other plans.”
  • Focus on the facts rather than judging motives. If your spouse forgets to make an important call, deal with the consequences of what you both have to do next rather than say, “You’re so careless; you just do things to irritate me.
  • Above all, focus on understanding your spouse rather than on who is winning or losing. When your spouse confronts you, listen carefully to what is said and what isn’t said. For example, it may be that he is upset about something that happened at work and you’re getting nothing more than the brunt of that pressure.

Step Five: Resolving conflict requires forgiveness.

No matter how hard two people try to love and please each other, they will fail. With failure comes hurt. And the only ultimate relief for hurt is the soothing salve of forgiveness.

The key to maintaining an open, intimate, and happy marriage is to ask for and grant forgiveness quickly. And the ability to do that is tied to each individual’s relationship with God.

About the process of forgiveness, Jesus said, “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14–15). The instruction is clear: God insists that we are to be forgivers, and marriage—probably more than any other relationship—presents frequent opportunities to practice.

Forgiving means giving up resentment and the desire to punish. By an act of your will, you let the other person off the hook. And as a Christian you do not do this under duress, scratching and screaming in protest. Rather, you do it with a gentle spirit and love, as Paul urged: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Step Six: Resolving conflict requires returning a blessing for an insult.

First Peter 3:8-9 says, “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”

Every marriage operates on either the “Insult for Insult” or the “Blessing for Insult” relationship. Husbands and wives can become extremely proficient at trading insults—about the way he looks, the way she cooks, or the way he drives and the way she cleans house. Many couples don’t seem to know any other way to relate to each other.

What does it mean to return a blessing for an insult? Chapter three of 1 Peter goes on to say “For, ‘the one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it'” (verses 10-11).

To give a blessing first means stepping aside or simply refusing to retaliate if your spouse gets angry. Changing your natural tendency to lash out, fight back, or tell your spouse off is just about as easy as changing the course of the Mississippi River. You can’t do it without God’s help, without yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit.

It also means doing good. Sometimes doing good simply takes a few words spoken gently and kindly, or perhaps a touch, a hug, or a pat on the shoulder. It might mean making a special effort to please your spouse by performing a special act of kindness.

Finally, being a blessing means seeking peace, actually pursuing it. When you eagerly seek to forgive, you are pursuing oneness, not isolation.

Our hope

As difficult as it is to work through conflict in marriage, we can claim God’s promises as we do so. Not only does God bless our efforts based on His Word, but He also tells us He has an ultimate purpose for our trials. First Peter 1:6-7 tells us,

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

God’s purpose in our conflicts is to test our faith, to produce endurance, to refine us, and to bring glory to Himself. This is the hope He gives us—that we can actually approach our conflicts as an opportunity to strengthen our faith and to glorify God.

Copyright © 2002 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved. Much of this material was adapted by permission from Staying Close by Dennis Rainey, ©1989, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved.

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How to resolve family conflicts, what not to do during a quarrel, and what is the main secret of happy marriages

Irina Balmanzhi

Some specific problems, such as how to raise children, spend money from the family budget and distribute household chores, are by no means what constitute the essence of marriage or contribute to its breakdown. Here everything is decided, rather, by the way that the spouses choose to discuss painful issues. A simple agreement on how to express different points of view will help you deal with negative emotions and keep the relationship going.

We talk about destructive strategies of behavior and how to resolve conflicts correctly.

Rough criticism

Most spouses have moments from time to time when dissatisfaction with what the partner has done is expressed in such a way that it looks like a hostile attack on the person, and not on his act. And I must say, such harsh criticism of a partner has a much more destructive emotional impact than justified remarks.


In a healthy marriage, the husband and wife express their dissatisfaction openly and calmly. The difference between dissatisfaction and personal criticism is very simple. When making a complaint, a wife is specific about what is upsetting her and criticizes her husband's action, not his own, telling him her reaction: "When you forgot to pick up my clothes from the dry cleaners, I thought you didn't give a damn about me. " This is how basic emotional intelligence expresses itself: affirmatively, but by no means aggressively or passively.

By resorting to personal criticism, she, on the contrary, uses a specific grievance to launch a global attack on her husband: “You always act like a careless egoist, once again proving that you cannot be relied on for anything.” After such a critical assessment, a person becomes ashamed, he feels hostility from his partner, feels guilty and flawed. And he will decide on a defensive reaction, and will not take any steps at all to improve the state of affairs.

The situation is made even worse if criticisms are expressed with contempt - a particularly destructive emotion. Contempt usually accompanies anger and is found not only in words, but also in tone of voice and angry facial expression. The most open form of contempt, of course, remains a mockery or insult like: "nothingness", "rag" and "rubbish".

No less offensive is the body language that conveys contempt, especially such a universal mimic signal for expressing disgust as lips twisted in a sly smile or a look raised to the ceiling, corresponding to the exclamation: “Well, you are such a type!”

Solution: communicate without accusations

There are many labels and barbs in the verbal arsenal of spouses: “you are selfish”, “you are heartless”, “you don’t care about me”, “you are simply incapable of intimacy”, “you think that I am your property”, “you constantly demand something”, “you whine all the time”, “you are not independent”.

Try to use the method of "communication without accusations." His goal is to stop verbal duels and turn attention to the real problem.

It is necessary to make a purposeful effort and try not to lash out at the partner: to express dissatisfaction with what he did, but not to criticize him as a person and not express contempt.

Complaints should not turn into criticisms of character, they should be a clearly articulated statement that some particular act or deed causes suffering. An angry personal attack will almost certainly lead to the spouse becoming defensive or fenced off with a wall of silence. There will be additional frustration, the quarrel will only escalate.

Wall of silence

Emotional attacks can cause one of two reactions: "fight or escape." The most obvious choice is to strike back with an outburst of angry reproaches. This path usually leads to an inconclusive competition in shouting over each other. But the alternative response—flight—may be more harmful, especially if the “escape” is reduced to falling into unbreakable silence.

The erection of the wall of silence marks the last line of defense. The silencer simply becomes impenetrable, taking on a stone expression on his face, falling silent and thereby actually moving away from the conversation.


The wall of silence sends out a powerful unnerving signal, something like a combination of icy restraint, superiority and dislike.

According to the observations of scientists, the stone wall of silence was found mainly in marriage unions, inexorably moving towards trouble. In 85 percent of these cases, it was the husband who resorted to this type of defense in response to the actions of the wife, who lashed out at him with critical remarks, pouring out her contempt.

Hiding behind a wall of silence is a habitual reaction that has a destructive effect on relationships: it cuts off all possibilities for settling differences.

Solution: Discuss problems openly

As a rule, wives express their dissatisfaction louder and more frankly than husbands (although there are exceptions). At the same time, men are trying in every possible way to evade the discussion of unpleasant moments in a relationship. So this advice is mostly for the stronger sex.

Men are advised not to shy away from conflict, but to understand that when their wives begin to discuss some grievances or disagreements, they show love for their husbands, wanting to maintain a good and lasting relationship (although, of course, female hostility may well have other motives ).

If resentment and discontent simmer for a long time, they inevitably become aggravated, and sooner or later an explosion is sure to occur. But if all controversial issues are regularly “ventilated” and settled, there will be a relaxation of tension.


Husbands should also realize that irritation or dissatisfaction does not at all imply personal attacks: the emotions of wives often only serve as an indicator of the depth of their feelings on this or that occasion.

Men also need to be careful not to derail the discussion by proposing a practical solution too soon - as a rule, it is more important for a wife to feel that her husband is listening to her complaints and enters into her feelings about the issue under discussion. She may see his offer of advice as a way to let her know that her feelings are inconsistent.

Husbands who are able to share the company of their wives during a fit of anger, instead of dismissing complaints as nonsense, help their better half feel heard and respected. The most important thing wives want is for their feelings to be acknowledged and treated as valid, even if their husbands disagree with them. It often happens that the wife, realizing that her opinion has been heard, and her feelings have been noticed, calms down.

Poisonous thoughts

The children got naughty, and Martin, their father, began to get annoyed. He turned to his wife, Melanie, and asked sarcastically, "Darling, don't you think the kids might have settled down by now?" In fact, he thought: "She is too lenient with children."

Melanie, responding to his anger, felt a wave of irritation wash over her. A tense expression appeared on her face, her eyebrows drew together at the bridge of her nose, and she replied: “The children are playing. Whatever the case, they'll be going to bed soon." And she herself thought: “Again, he is for his own, forever dissatisfied.”

Now Martin was visibly angry. He leaned forward menacingly, clenched his fists, and said in an irritated tone, “Maybe I should pack them now?” And I thought: “She objects to me in everything. I should bet on mine."

Melanie, suddenly afraid of Martin's fury, humbly muttered: "No, no, I'll put them in now." A thought flashed through her: “He is not in control of himself at all, no matter how the children get it. It's better for me to give up."

Such parallel conversations—voiced and silent—reported by Iron Beck, the founder of cognitive therapy. He cites them as examples of the types of thinking that can poison any marriage. The true exchange of emotions between Melanie and Martin is shaped by their thoughts, and those thoughts are in turn shaped by another, deeper layer that Beck calls “automatic thoughts,” fleeting background assumptions about themselves and the people in their lives.


For Melanie, the background thought will be something like: “He always harasses me with his irritation,” and the main thought will sit in Martin’s head: “She doesn’t dare to treat me like that.” In their marriage, Melanie feels like an innocent victim, and Martin feels righteous anger because he feels he is being treated unfairly.

Thoughts about the status of an innocent victim, filled with just indignation, are typical of spouses who are unhappy in marriage, and constantly feed anger and resentment. As soon as disturbing thoughts begin to arise automatically, they immediately begin to reinforce themselves: the partner who thinks he is being harassed constantly “scans” everything that the other partner does, highlighting what can confirm his position as a martyr, and not accepting reckoning no beneficence on the part of another that would question or disprove his belief.

Solution: Get rid of the pessimistic pattern

The general pattern of thoughts that sustain or alleviate suffering is consistent with psychologist Martin Seligman's model of pessimistic and optimistic positions.

The pessimistic point of view assumes that the partner is naturally full of flaws that cannot be changed, which serves as a guarantee of torment: “He is selfish and self-absorbed; this is how he was brought up, this is how he will always be; he expects me to fulfill his every whim, and he doesn’t care what I feel.”

The opposite, optimistic, point of view boils down to something like this: “Well, yes, he is demanding now, but he used to be attentive; maybe he’s in a bad mood, I don’t know, maybe something bothers him in his work.” This point of view does not put an end to the husband (or marriage) as something irreparably corrupted and hopeless. On the contrary, she explains the unpleasant moment by circumstances that can change.

The first attitude brings endless suffering, the second consoles. Spouses who take a pessimistic position are extremely prone to emotional attacks. They become enraged, offended, or otherwise distressed by what their "halves" are doing, and become agitated as soon as the attack begins. And of course, internal distress and a pessimistic attitude greatly increase the likelihood that when faced with a partner they will resort to criticism and show contempt. And this, in turn, will increase the likelihood of leaving the wall of silence.

When emotions take over the mind

At the heart of every strong emotion is an impulse to act; the ability to manage these impulses is the essence of emotional intelligence. This is especially difficult for people in intimate relationships where too much is at stake for them.

Emotional reactions in such situations affect our deepest desires: the need to be loved and to feel the respect of a partner; fear that you will be abandoned or will be perceived as an empty place. And therefore it is quite natural that we take part in family battles, because they sometimes decide how our future life will turn out.

But it is impossible to come to a positive decision if the husband or wife is not in control of their emotions, which means that the main thing that can be advised to spouses is to learn how to moderate their own agitated feelings.


In other words, each spouse must be able to quickly deal with emotions. And since in moments of emotional outbursts a person loses the ability to listen, think and clearly express his thoughts in words, the ability to calm down is an extremely constructive move, without which progress in resolving a contentious issue is impossible.

Solution: don't stir up anger

The couple should make an agreement in advance, according to which either of them can demand a short break at the first sign of "emotional flooding".

This allows you to stop in the midst of an argument and separate for twenty minutes to cool off before continuing the discussion. Although a fifteen-minute break may seem long enough, actual physiological recovery is gradual and takes longer. Residual anger causes more anger; a longer wait gives the body more time to recover from a previous activation.

During a break, you can help calm down by using relaxation techniques or by doing some of the exercises from the arsenal of aerobics. It is even more important to neutralize poisonous thoughts, because they are the ones that generate new fits of rage.

If you overwork yourself and get more and more excited, then a break will not do any good. Instead, one should calmly track down negative thoughts, realizing that there is no need to believe them. It is worth making a conscious effort to comprehend facts or other points of view that will question yours.

For example, a wife, having decided at the most stressful moment that her husband does not care about her needs, could herself refute this thought by reminding herself of her husband's various actions, which, in fact, serve as proof of his attention and care. As a result, her thoughts would take a different turn.

The main secret of strong marriages: emotional connection

Psychologists decided to observe married couples “in their natural habitat”. Since it would be embarrassing to move to the participants for the duration of the experiment, the organizers came up with the following option: they built a studio apartment in their laboratory.

The couples took turns in the experiment and spent twenty-four hours in the apartment. Participants were asked to bring groceries and everything they need for what they usually do at home on the weekends - movies, books, even work. The only condition is to spend the day the way they would spend it at home. During twelve of the twenty-four hours, usually from 9 am to 9 pm, they were filmed.

One of the most surprising observations was "applications for an emotional connection" and the reaction to them - that is, attempts to establish contact with a partner. The scientists ranked these applications according to the emotional involvement they required. The hierarchy turned out like this (from the lowest inclusion to the highest):

  • A simple request for partner's attention. "Look, what a beautiful yacht."
  • Request for partner interest. “Your dad had the same yacht, right?”
  • Application for enthusiasm. “Listen, on such a yacht we could go on a trip around the world.
  • Request to continue the conversation. “Have you talked to your brother for a long time? Did he fix his yacht?
  • Application for the game. Roll up the newspaper into a tube and lightly hit your partner on the head: “Here, all day my hands itched to do this.”
  • Application for humor. "A rabbi, a priest and a psychiatrist are sailing on a yacht..."
  • Application for tenderness. Request "Hug me", etc.; often expressed non-verbally.
  • Emotional Support Request: "I still don't understand why I wasn't promoted."
  • Application for openness. “Tell me, did you like to go with your grandfather to the sea on a yacht as a child?”

The researchers noticed that after each of these techniques, the partner to whom the application is addressed demonstrates one of three possible reactions: either “turns” to the partner and expresses enthusiasm (from a short interjection to full participation in the conversation), or “turns away”, usually simply ignoring what they heard, or “turning against” the partner (“Listen, well, I’m reading, don’t interfere!”).

Couples' reactions to emotional requests revealed a lot about their future. These small patterns of behavior, at first glance, meaning nothing in isolation, nevertheless, made it possible to most accurately predict how a couple would develop a relationship in the long term.

Follow-up after six years showed that couples where one or both partners responded emotionally to 3 out of 10 requests were already divorced, while those who responded emotionally to 9 out of 10 requests were still together.


In marriage, these micro-displays of attention or indifference add up to a whole culture that either strengthens relationships or undermines them. Small patterns of behavior feed on themselves, gradually becoming more complex, as each interaction builds on previous ones, even if each of them individually is a trifle. Moments of pettiness and anger or generosity and affection form a self-perpetuating feedback loop, and over time the relationship as a whole becomes either more destructive or happier.

Based on materials from books "Emotional Intelligence" and "Emotional Flexibility"

There are no ideal people and situations. Yulia Gracheva, psychologist of the early prevention sector of the Dialog Family Center, told how to learn this.

One of the most common conflicts are disputes between spouses. The main reasons for such situations are the inability to express their feelings, lack of communication, manifestations of anger, fuzzy boundaries of personal territory.

Basic conflict strategies:

  1. Avoidance (withdrawal) strategy. In this case, the conflict is not resolved, but the interests of the parties are hushed up and their overall development is frozen.
  2. Domination. Doomed to failure in advance. In this case, ignoring the interests and needs of one partner in favor of the other will further aggravate the situation.
  3. Compliance. Will lead to a frustrated state (feeling of the impossibility of satisfying one's own needs) of one of the family members, an imbalance in relationships (rights, power, duties). Just as in the dominance strategy, the needs of one of the family members are ignored.
  4. Compromise. In this case, outwardly the conflict seems to be resolved, but mutual concessions can be difficult for each of the parties, since compatibility and common interests are not taken into account.
  5. Cooperation. This is the best way to resolve the conflict. The conflicting parties enter into a dialogue and find a way out that helps each of them to maximize their interests and maintain long-term relationships.

Rules for a peaceful dispute

  1. Do not stoop to insults. This is an important and mandatory rule for any conflict.
  2. Remain calm. If you feel that you can’t hold back your emotions now, switch your attention - for example, count to 10, try to sit on a chair or sofa, in this position it is more difficult to express anger.
  3. The situation is not always resolved instantly, sometimes you need to be without each other for several hours to find a more rational solution.
  4. Listen to each other: for example, you can set a timer of 2 minutes for each speaker.
  5. If the degree of quarrel is high, say a prearranged stop word, after which there is a minute pause. Often this is enough for both parties to stabilize their emotional state.
  6. After each quarrel, analyze the reason why it arose. If you are wrong, admit it.
  7. In dialogue, use a technique that helps you speak in a conflict so that you can be heard: “I-messages”, when sentences are built in the format of broadcasting your feelings and desires, without evaluating the other. I-message formula: fact + feelings + needs + expected result. You only need to talk about yourself: