All couples argue. Successful couples repair. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. Gottman describes a repair attempt as “any statement or action — silly or otherwise — that prevents negativity from escalating out of control.”

Relationship conflict gives couples the opportunity to understand each other better over time. Sometimes these conflicts can get heated, however, and partners can say things they don’t mean.

When you take drivers ed, the first thing you’re taught is how to stop the car. Putting on the brakes is an important skill in relationships, too. How do you do this? By using repair attempts.

When Christine complains about having to do all of the housework herself before company comes over for Thanksgiving, Dave gets defensive and says, “I wiped down the kitchen counters and swept the floors.” Christine doesn’t immediately discount his point. “That’s true, you did,” she says. This is a repair attempt because it de-escalates the tension, allowing Dave to be more receptive to finding a compromise.

How well do you and your partner make and receive repair attempts in your relationship? Take the brief quiz below to find out.



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Kyle works in The Love Lab where he nerds out on the science of relationships. When not highlighting research on a Sunday morning in his bathrobe, Kyle enjoys writing for his blog Kylebenson.net where he takes the research on successful relationships and transforms them into practical tools for romantic partners.