How do Stable Couples Fight Fairly?

If it seems like you are having the same argument again and again, you are not alone. Marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman conducted a four-year follow-up study with married couples and concluded that 31% of marriage arguments are about short-term issues, and 69% of marital problems are recurring.  

His research provides some insight into why some couples handle short-term marriage conflicts better than others, explaining that stable couples have a “gentler approach.” This more effective approach includes:

  • Bringing up the problem in a soft, not harsh manner
  • Presenting their issues with more positive and less negative affect
  • Accepting influence from spouse
  • Repairing the interaction when it became negative
  • Being willing to compromise
  • Using humor in problem solving

Unstable couples, on the other hand, tend to allow the negative discussions to escalate and showed high levels of criticism, contempt, defensiveness and sadness. 1

If you have an issue you would like to talk about with a spouse, think about how you plan to approach and discuss it. First, ask yourself if this is a short-term problem or a recurring argument. As you plan your approach, consider if you are viewing things with your own “right answer” or whether you are willing to listen to your partner’s perspective and compromise. Slamming your partner with an insult or issuing a litany of complaints would not be a good start. Pick a good time and place, and if it’s a small matter, keep the conversation brief.

Don’t be afraid to lighten up. I’ve heard the fastest way to get a man to flee is to open with the plea, “We need to talk.”  

(1) The Relationship Research Institute, created by Dr. John Gottman,

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