Larry James' CelebrateIntimateWeddings BLOG

Friday, May 11, 2012

So… What’s the Secret to a Happy Marriage?

Filed under: Relationship Tips — Larry James @ 8:30 am

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT, Guest Author

Nothing is perfect and marriages aren’t either. The reality is that conflict happens and in fact, it is healthier to successfully navigate through challenges than to stuff your feelings. This behavior has a tendency to become resentment, a toxic force if left unchecked. How do couples successfully navigate through conflict and keep it manageable while others do damage to each other? John Gottman, PhD, refers to successful repair attempts as the “happy couple’s secret weapon.”

marriagesecretsThe beginning stages of conflict are wrought with possible paths to take, some helpful and some not. I imagine there have been a few times in your life when you’ve gotten irritated around a particularly tense subject with your spouse. You likely either successfully or unsuccessfully diffused what might have been a big argument.

There are a few types of repair attempts; the ones that happen along the way that help mitigate a higher level of conflict (low level) and the ones that are needed when real emotional damage has been done to the other (high level).

One of the biggest problems I see coming up between couples in my therapy practice is unresolved anger or sadness around things the other did or said which in worse case scenarios can stretch into years of simmering discontent creating an emotional gap or disconnection between them. The irony is that much of these resentment markers might never had existed had repair attempts been made at the time.

7 ways to make a repair attempt in the moment to keep from escalation: (low level)

1. Use humor

2. Ask your partner what they need from you right now

cartoon3. Validate their emotions

4. Apologize in the moment

5. Touch them gently

6. Verbally remind both of you that you’re on the same team

7. Empathize with them. “I get you.”

7 ways to make a repair attempts when real emotional damage has been done: (high level)

1. Take responsibility for your behavior

2. Verbally apologize with sincerity

3. Give your partner a hand-written, personalized card

4. Tell them you love them and didn’t mean to hurt them

5. Ask them what they need from you to help salve the wound

6. Share your ideas around how you got triggered and how you plan to work on avoiding it happening again

7. Tell your partner why they are worth it and what they mean to you

The best way to avoid problems in the future is to nip problematic situations in the bud – in the moment. However, often times this is easier said than done. If you miss the window of opportunity and things get heated, remember that you can still make a repair attempt after the fact.

Do it for your spouse – and for the marriage.

You can find more tips and tools for creating a better relationship including how to assess the emotional safety in your own, practice active listening and strengthen the over-all foundation in your marriage with The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for Couples.

BONUS Article: Working Together Helps Get Your Own Needs Met
Put the “Fun” in Relationship Fundamentals!
Need Some Romantic Ideas?

LisaBrookesCopyright © 2012 – Lisa Brookes Kift. Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of The Toolbox at with tools for marriage, relationship and emotional health. A frequent consultant for the media, she has appeared in numerous publications and online news sources including, and Martha Stewart Weddings Magazine. Learn more about Lisa’s private practice working with individuals and couples in Marin County, CA at

2heartringsLarry James is a non-denominational minister and performs the most “Romantic” wedding ceremony you will find anywhere! Every wedding ceremony is customized to your complete satisfaction. Call to check availability: 480-998-9411 or 800-725-9223. You will find more than 470 pages of Wedding ideas, tips (90 tips and growing), ceremonies, and more at: Something NEW about weddings is posted every 4th day on this Wedding BLOG. Check Larry’s availability.

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