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Don't let a disagreement overshadow all of your happy moments together.

Dr. Jim Walkup LMFT
Dec, 15, 2014

Don't let a disagreement overshadow all of your happy moments together.

Did you know that some of the couples who seem angriest with each other actually have a satisfying marriage?

At times, it might not feel  that way when you are around them. But, they may not tell you their secrets:

1. In spite of their angry exchanges, they still have many more affirming and positive interactions.

2. They have developed a ritual for healing the aftermath from their disputes.

Research by John Gottman in his book, Seven Principles of a Successful Marriage, explains that fighting is not a sign whether a relationship will end in divorce or not.

In fact, couples that do not engage in conflict often find themselves distancing or bored. Such non-interaction may, perhaps, be one of several causes for one partner to have an affair.

So, the hidden secret that could save your marriage is not the amount of conflict, but rather the number of happy interactions that offset any negative conflict.

Partners who learn to set aside their battles and play together often ride through their disagreements better. Fun interactions build a joyful bond far stronger than those petty (and even not so petty) disagreements.

But, deep marital problems arise when a partner jumps from initial upset to assuming that particular disagreement symbolizes the state of the entire marriage, or that it reveals the true character of their partner.

This leads to the belief that the marriage will always be this way. As a result, couples stop hugging, loving, and positively interacting with one another, retreating into isolated "islands of invulnerability" instead.

But couples who learn how to deal with angry arguments and remove themselves from battle, recover a positive sense of the relationship.

So, what's the secret weapon that helps them "get over" those disagreements?

Every couple needs mental snapshots of their "good time" memories to carry around in the wallets of their minds, or hang symbolically on the refrigerator of their hearts. These images serve as happy, positive symbols of the marriage and help counter-balance any memories of conflict that weigh on all marriages at times.

When each partner tucks those good moments in their heart and holds on to them, fighting itself makes less of an impact on the marriage overall. Suddenly those heated conversations trasnsform into opportunities that let each partner discover what the other feels intensely about. 

Conflict happens in even the happiest relationships. 

And Gottman suggests that 70% of conflicts may never get resolved; they will continue to surface throughout the marriage (over and over). Knowing this alone should help couples feel less discouraged.

Couples who learn to make up and then decide what each will do differently create a sense of safety in their marriage. They know they are able to bump heads and still hold one's own. A head full of happy memories about the relationship help motivate them to work it out because they remember how great their love is typically (and what they stand to lose). 

The exercise of reviewing the fight for ways to change the script helps you see your partner as strong, but also open to your concerns.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.com.

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