Consider Jane’s effort to deescalate: “I think we’ve gotten off track here—we need to just calm down.” John’s response: “Who are you telling to calm down?! YOU need to calm down. I have a right to be angry because you’re being obnoxious.”
This example is a clear repair failure. John didn’t accept Jane’s meta-communication bid to slow things down. From this example, we see that repair depends more on the receiver side than on the initiator side. You can be humorous, affectionate, or meta-communicative, but it’s not going anywhere if your partner doesn’t see the bid and respond in kind.
When we think about having “good fights” with our partners, we need to think about noticing repair bids and accepting them when they’re thrown out there.
If your partner simply pounds on you when you try to repair, why not talk with him/her about the importance of learning to put the brakes on during a fight? If you talk about repair in advance, then you can both notice the bids when they’re being thrown out there.
Here’s an idea: Have him/her read this column. Agree to try it out. Better still, read a Gottman book together, then discuss. Here’s one of his books I recommend quite a lot.
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