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Take 2 and Give Your Love a Second Chance

Your relationship is too precious. For every "mis-take," give it a do-over.

Bokskapet/Pixabay
There are no mistakes, only learnings.
Source: Bokskapet/Pixabay

We all make mistakes in our relationships.

Ruptures are inevitable.

John and Julie Gottman found in their research two main patterns separating the "masters" from "disasters" of relationship:

  • Happy couples maintain a minimum 5:1 ratio between positive interactions (let's call them "Yeses") and negative interactions ("Nos").
  • Relationship masters have a similar quantity of arguments as unhappy couples but they are better at offering and accepting repair attempts. A repair attempt is “any statement or action — silly or otherwise — that prevents negativity from escalating out of control.” (Gottman & Silver, 1999).

While the idea is simple, the execution can be somewhat challenging. Why?

In times of conflict or anger, one or both partners are flooded — with emotions, insult, pain — and might find it difficult to let go in order to allow for a repair attempt. Verbal requests or explanations can even increase the flooding or defensiveness of the receiver and result in a block of any repair attempt.

A more playful approach can help lower the flooding and improve the chances of a repair attempt working.

There are no mistakes

In theater improvisation, as well as other coaching approaches, we see a mistake as a “missed-take” — something that can always be redone. Because “there are no mistakes, only learning.” See more about there are no mistakes in this video.

This approach requires a healthy dose of play, which is the lubricant of life.

So if we take the concept of repair attempt and infuse it with play and the concept of mis-take, we arrive at:

TAKE 2

The idea is simple: Next time you or your partner are not happy with the current interaction, one of you calls out “TAKE 2” and both of you rewind the interaction and replay it, this time with a more aware, sensitive, and desired responses.

Either partner can say TAKE 2: It can be the partner that just regretted something they said or done, or it can be the partner that didn’t like the response or behavior they received from their companion.

Benefits of take 2

  • Prevents flooding and snowballing of arguments with a playful surprise.
  • Prevents the long-term results of relationship tension which is Negative Sentiment Override (NSO) – where partners automatically assume a negative explanation to their partner’s behavior and speech.
  • Effective repair attempts help keeps couples in the 5:1 ratio of yeses to nos.
  • Easy way to own up and take responsibility for your part in the rupture.
  • Prevents wasting time and energy on defensiveness, frustration, and arguing.

I often work with couples who are very conflictual and suffering from a high level of NSO, (often with a ration of 1 "yes" to every 10 "no"s). In couples therapy, we try to slow down the interaction, while teaching partners how to playfully offer and accept repair attempts and to prevent further negative escalation.

Example

Once I was working with a middle-aged couple, let's call them Betty and Dan, who were in a bitter, gridlock conflict in their marriage. In one session, Betty started opening up about her painful childhood trauma. After a few moments, I turned to Dan and waited for his reaction, expecting him to react empathetically to their vulnerable partner. This type of response would help them get closer to the desired 5:1 ratio.

But instead, the first thing that came out of his mouth was:

“Well, I'M also hurt!”

He completely ignored her feelings.

Why? Perhaps because he felt it was either her pain or his. He got defensive or maybe even guilty, and so he blocked her offer.

I could immediately sense the shift in the energy in the room. The vulnerability was gone and I could sense how Betty was insulted, and then slowly became angry and distant. I was witnessing their usual dance as a couple and how they typically ignore each other’s attempts at connection.

I decided to try something new and I said:

“Wait, let’s do a Take 2. Let’s try that again.”

Dan thought for a moment, turned to her and said:

“Wow, that sounds like it wasn't easy. Tell me more about that experience.”

Although Betty was starting to flood, upon hearing his Take 2, she cracked a little smile.

The energy in the room opened.

Betty didn’t immediately open back up but she was grateful for the novel response.

How to incorporate TAKE 2s in your life?

  • Share this article with your partner so you both are familiar with the TAKE 2 code.
  • Own it. As soon as you notice that you went against, ignored, or just missed your partner’s bids for connection, name it to yourself and continue to...
  • Say it. Just the act of saying TAKE 2 is already signaling to your partner that you don’t want to hurt them and want to remain close.
  • Agree to a TAKE 2. When your partner initiates a repair attempt, dig deep inside and avoid responding with insult, surprise, or disappointment (what I call the Holy Trinity of Blocking). But rather Let It Land, and playfully give both of you a second chance.
    • If you are too flooded to actually Take 2, then at the very least, thank them for attempting to repair.
  • Don’t worry or complain that your partner’s Take 2 is fake. Of course, it is not natural, but every new behavior we learn is going to feel somewhat fake at first because we’re not used to it. What’s important is that we are increasing our "Yes" to "No" ratio beyond 5:1. We’re filling our love tanks with benevolence and goodwill.
  • If you are too flooded to actually Take 2, then at the very least, thank them for attempting to repair.

Take 2 is not just an opportunity to repair a conflict, but also is an opportunity to relive, refine, and reshape your relationship into a more safe, playful, solid, differentiated bond.

Life’s too short and important to only play once, so:

Take two to give your love a second chance.

References

Gottman, J. M., DeClaire, J., & Gottman, J. (2001). The relationship cure. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work: A practical guide from the country's foremost relationship expert. New York: Harmony.

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