A new observational coding system was designed to study how newlywed couples naturally attempt to repair negativity during marital conflict. The patterns of both attack during conflict and repair over time were examined. Criteria for the effectiveness of repair attempts were (1) reducing negative affect or (2) increasing positive affect during conflict. The data on repair and affect were summarized across the entire interaction, and also by five 3-minute time blocks. There was evidence for “pre-emptive” repair, which occurred in the first 3 minutes of conflict. These were the most effective repairs. They primarily addressed the affective climate of the interaction aimed at establishing emotional connection, rather than repairs that appealed to cognitive problem-solving, logic, or rationality. These affective repairs included shared humor, affection, self-disclosure, expressing understanding, and empathy, taking responsibility for a part of the issue being discussed, and “we’re okay” codes. Some specific repairs were effective during the heat of the conflict (minutes 4–12), and some repairs, although very few, repairs were effective at “the 11th hour,” that is, the last 3 minutes of the conflict. There was also support for the hypothesis that the quality of the couple’s friendship could form the basis for the acceptance of repair by both partners.
Gottman, J. M., Driver, J., & Tabares, A. (2015). Repair during marital conflict in newlyweds: How couples move from attack–defend to collaboration. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 26(2), 85-108.