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Part Three: Repair Attempts


In Conflict Management, we will fail 100% of the time unless the conversation ends with each partner understanding the identified problem and the feelings behind the problem.

In our ongoing conversation on the Four Horsemen which destroy a couple’s ability to manage conflict, we will focus on creating Repair Attempts.  Our goal is simple, each partner will have a mutual understanding of each other, and to obtain this goal we use Repair Attempts to repair the conversation and De-escalate hurt feelings.

Often, simple conversations our derailed because one partner or the other is hurt in the process.  Old conversations, old hurts, and unresolved conflict resurfaces, and once again a conflicted conversation becomes an argument, and once again a issue goes unresolved.

In Greenburg and O’Malley’s Handbook “Avoiding Love and Marriage,” we find three simple ideas to repair conflict,

  1. The person who started the fight must be the one to end it.
  2. The person who was wrong must be the one to end it.
  3. If the person who started the fight and the person who was wrong are not the same person, the fight can never be ended.

Think of these simple ideas above as values to follow.  The person, who did the hurting, needs to use the repair attempt.

Below are a series of scripted phrases which are repair attempts.  Using these phrases will disrupt arguments and allow both of you to understand the other.  Through this understanding, solutions are possible.


According to Dr. Gottman’s research, “Formalizing repair attempts by using these scripted phrases can help you defuse arguments in two ways: First, the formality of a script ensures that you will use the type of words that work well for putting on the brakes, and second, these phrases are like megaphones—they help ensure that you pay attention to a repair attempt when you’re on the receiving end.”


 I Feel…

I am getting scared

Please say that more gently

That felt like an insult

I don’t feel like you are understanding me right now

I Need to Calm Down…

I just need this to be calmer right now

Can I take that back?

I need your support right now

Can we take a break?


Let me try again

I’m sorry

I really messed up, I can see my part in this

I want to say this more gently, but I don’t know how

I Appreciate…

I know that this isn’t your fault

Thank you for…

I understand

I love you

This weekend, try using these scripted phrases in your conversations. I suggest starting with low-intensity topics before moving on to longtime hurts within your relationship.   When you notice your partner making a repair attempt, accept it and acknowledge it clearly.