10 Things to Say to Keep Marital Conflict Under Control

What’s that random thing you know that serves no purpose other than to give your brain a ball to play with? My random thing: cars. I don’t have a great car, and I know nothing about how to fix them. But I can identify cars on the road quicker than I can identify my kids in a crowd. While most of us know many random things that don’t matter, there is one thing that is anything but random and really matters: knowing how to resolve marital conflict. Maybe even more important is knowing how to stop it before it spins to unproductive and damaging.

Knowing how to slow down conflict is crucial to your marriage. Dr. John Gottman, a leading marriage researcher, found that happy couples have a secret weapon that keeps conflicts from escalating. “It’s called a repair attempt, which is any statement or action used to diffuse a conflict,” he says. Choose your own, or feel free to rip off one of these 10 things to say to keep your marital conflict under control.

1. “Let’s remember we love each other.”

I stole this one from the movie The Shack. While it was a great movie moment, it can also work in the real world.

2. “My bad. Can I say that again?”

When we say things in the heat of the moment, our words can lack the care and forethought our wives deserve. Instead of defending careless comments, asking for a clean slate is better.

3. “That hurt. Can you say that in a different way?”

Below the surface of our anger is typically hurt. Instead of blowing off, defeating, or escaping your wife’s hurtful words, give her a chance to say it again.

4. “Can we pause this for a few minutes, and then try again?”

When we are relationally triggered, the emotional parts of our brain rule the day, while the logical parts of our brain are out to lunch. Taking a few minutes to breathe gives the logical parts of our brain time to get back to work and remember what types of husbands we want to be.

5. “I love you; let’s not stay mad.”

Attitude and anger can often rule our conflicts. Love and self-control soothe our response and remind us why we are so passionate about all this “stuff” in the first place.

6. “We are on the same team.”

As guys, we tend to be competitive during conflict. “When we fight to win, we both lose” is a cliché because it is true.

7. “I hear you. Let’s figure this out together.”

Nothing can be more frustrating than feeling like you are not being heard. This is true for your wife, and if anyone in your life deserves to be heard, it’s her.

8. “Let’s take a selfie.”

While humor can be tricky during conflict, for some couples, it’s their go-to repairer of words gone wrong. One man posted online, “Whenever we get in a heated argument, my wife stops mid-argument and takes a selfie with me; I’m never amused.” Sure he is.

9. “It’s OK for me to be frustrated, but it’s not OK to be nasty.”

This is a sentence we used with our kids growing up. It lightens the mood if I can catch myself in the beginning of our tension and say it.

10. “You’re right. I’m wrong.”

Sometimes in arguments, we are wrong, and we know it. But instead of owning it, we press on due to pride. Sincerely, lovingly, acknowledging we are wrong can be a quick, simple game-changer.

Sound off: What is your go-to repair attempt to keep your marital conflict under control?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is one simple way to slow things down when you get frustrated?”