As Zach Brittle explained in his “R is for Repair” column, in relational terms, repair is less about fixing what is broken and more about getting back on track. Dr. Gottman refers to repair attempts as “the secret weapon” of emotionally intelligent couples, even though many of these couples aren’t aware that they are doing something so powerful. Are you effectively utilizing repair attempts in your relationship?
This questionnaire assesses the effectiveness of your repair attempts. Take some time to complete it with your partner.
Repair Attempts Questionnaire
Read each statement below and choose T for “true” or F for “false.”
During our attempts to resolve conflict:
1. We are good at taking breaks when we need them. T F
2. My partner usually accepts my apologies. T F
3. I can say that I am wrong. T F
4. I am pretty good at calming myself down. T F
5. We can maintain a sense of humor. T F
6. When my partner says we should talk to each other in a different way, it usually makes a lot of sense. T F
7. My attempts to repair our discussions when they get negative are usually effective. T F
8. We are pretty good listeners even when we have different positions on things. T F
9. If things get heated, we can usually pull out of it and change things. T F
10. My partner is good at soothing me when I get upset. T F
11. I feel confident that we can resolve most issues between us. T F
12. When I comment on how we could communicate better my spouse listens to me. T F
13. Even if things get hard at times I know we can get past our differences. T F
14. We can be affectionate even when we are disagreeing. T F
15. Teasing and humor usually work to get my partner over negativity. T F
16. We can start all over again and improve our discussion when we need to. T F
17. When emotions run hot, expressing how upset I feel makes a real difference. T F
18. We can discuss even big differences between us. T F
19. My partner expresses appreciation for nice things I do. T F
20. If I keep trying to communicate it will eventually work. T F
Scoring: Give yourself one point for each “true” answer
6 or Above: This is an area of strength in your relationship. When conflict discussions are at risk of getting out of hand, you are able to put on the brakes and effectively calm each other down.
Below 6: Your relationship could stand some improvement in this area. By learning how to repair your interactions when negativity engulfs you, you can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your problem solving and develop a more positive perspective of each other and your relationship.
What separates stable, emotionally intelligent couples from others is not that their repair attempts are necessarily more skillful or better thought out, but that their repair attempts get through to their partner. Because repair attempts can be difficult to hear if your relationship is engulfed in negativity, the best strategy is to make your attempts more formal and deliberate in order to emphasize them. Talk to your partner this weekend about repair attempts. If you need a place to start, check out the Gottman Repair Checklist here. What works for you? What doesn’t? Don’t be afraid to get creative.