The Power of Repair: Strengthening Relationships Through Effective Conflict Resolution

July 03, 2024

In the journey of any relationship, conflict is inevitable. Whether it’s a romantic partnership, a friendship, or a family connection, disagreements and misunderstandings will happen. The key to maintaining a healthy and thriving relationship isn’t avoiding conflict altogether—it’s how we handle and repair it. Drawing on the insights of The Gottman’s, leading relationship researchers, we can understand the importance of repair in relationships and learn practical strategies for making effective repairs after conflict.

The Importance of Repair

The Gottman’s emphasize that the ability to repair conflicts is one of the most crucial aspects of a successful relationship. According to Gottman’s findings, couples who manage to repair effectively are far more likely to stay together and experience greater relationship satisfaction.

Repair helps:

  • Restore Connection: Conflicts can create emotional distance. Repair attempts help bridge this gap, allowing partners to reconnect and reaffirm their bond.
  • Build Trust: Successfully navigating conflicts and making repairs builds trust. It shows that both partners are committed to the relationship and willing to work through challenges together.
  • Promote Resilience: Relationships that can move through and recover from conflicts are more resilient. This resilience contributes to long-term stability and satisfaction.
  • Reduce Negative Patterns: Without repair, conflicts can lead to a buildup of resentment and negative patterns. Effective repairs prevent these patterns from becoming deep-seated.
How to Make Effective Repairs

Making effective repairs requires both partners to be willing to communicate openly, listen
empathetically, and take responsibility for their actions. Here are some strategies based on Gottman’s principles:

  • Recognize Repair Attempts: Gottman’s research highlights the importance of recognizing and responding to repair attempts. These can be subtle, like a joke to lighten the mood, or direct, such as an apology. The key is to be attuned to your partner’s efforts and respond positively.
  • Use Softened Start-Up: How a conflict starts often determines how it will end. Be mindful of
    how the conversation starts and using a softened start-up means approaching the issue gently and without blame. Instead of saying, “You never listen to me,” try an “I statement” like, “I feel unheard when we talk about our plans.”
  • Share Appreciation and Affection: When in conflict, it’s easy to forget the positive aspects of your relationship. Expressing appreciation and affection can diffuse tension and remind both partners of their bond. Simple statements like, “I appreciate how hard you work for our family,” can go a long way.
  • Take Responsibility: Taking responsibility for your part in the conflict demonstrates maturity and a willingness to grow. Instead of defending yourself, acknowledge your mistakes. For example, “I realize I overreacted earlier. I’m sorry for raising my voice.”
  • Practice Active Listening: Active listening involves fully focusing on your partner, understanding their perspective and validating their feelings. Reflect back on what you hear to show that you’re truly engaged. For instance, “It sounds like you’re feeling hurt because you felt ignored when I was on my phone.”
  • Seek Additional Support: If conflicts are recurring and repairs seem ineffective, seeking the help of a therapist who works with couples can be invaluable. Therapists can provide guidance and tools tailored to your specific relationship dynamics.

The goal isn’t to eliminate conflict but to navigate it with compassion, understanding, and a commitment to repair.

Conflict is a natural part of any relationship, but it doesn’t have to be destructive. By focusing on repair, we can turn conflicts into opportunities for growth and deeper connection.


Couples Therapy: Nurturing Relationships for a Lifetime – Susan Gonzales Counseling


Gottman, J. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York: Crown.

Gottman, J. (1994). Why Marriages Succeed or Fail. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Gottman, J., & Silver, N. (2015). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. Harmony.

janet mize counseling therapist
Written By: Janet Mize, LMFT, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Hiring & Onboarding Manager


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