Resolving couple conflict
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor
20th June, 20120 Comments
Increasingly couples are seeking counselling to help with problems in their relationships and marriages. The reasons for conflict are many and varied; some of the more common reasons are infidelity, a feeling that you have drifted apart or that you are feeling misunderstood or taken for granted. If you find yourself in this position what can you do to work on your relationship to try to change it to something that you are both happy with.
Although conflict is common in relationships, unfortunately one thing which is less common is the skills to fight smart. This is not some tactic to get the better of your partner but rather a set of practices which can help you to focus on the problem to discuss what is important not the who said what to whom.
The first rule is not to try to brow beat your partner into your point of view. When people are criticised they become defensive closed to new ideas or examining the problem afresh. Unless motivated by revenge it’s unlikely that your partner set out to upset or annoy you. Perhaps they don’t realise how you feel about an issue or they don’t know that you are frustrated at being taken for granted. One of the best ways to approach the situation is to say that I feel that we don’t do as many things together as we used to, and I wondered what you thought. This approach outlines your feelings (of which you are the expert) and invites them to share their opinion on the subject that is important to you.
Perhaps you feel betrayed perhaps there is infidelity or you feel that a joint decision was taken without your opinion being sought. You could say how you feel, I feel angry at what you have done, I need some time to look at my feelings and I hope you can respect that.
I am sure that in all such situations the emotionally charged atmosphere will make it difficult to remain as calm and clinical as in the words of this article. However, the basic principle remains the same. Be clear and own your feelings about the situation. If appropriate ask for what you need or your partner’s thoughts on the situation. While understandable anger rarely helps so be as calm and assertive as the situation will allow.
The focus of any discussion on your problem is to concentrate on solving the problem and that requires both parties to be grown up and say what they mean. Not to sulk, not to guilt trip the other partner and not to fight about fighting.
The extension of you saying what you feel is to listen to what your partner is saying. Don’t try to read their mind ask them for how they feel about a situation or a problem. Listen to them without interrupting. Your goal is to really understand their point of view, to be able to express it to them: I hear that you think that I expect too much of you, but I feel frustrated that I seem to have to have to tackle all the housework and cooking. I hate it that you feel I nag you and I really want to find a way that works for us both. The point is not only to listen to their point of view but to acknowledge what they think and feel not simply to return to what you want. Remember changes in a relationship need to be agreed by both parties so you can’t demand change only request it.
Of course sometimes you need outside help to resolve your difficulties and someone like a counsellor can offer a safe place and a framework to discuss you problems and in a less threatening way come to a compromise or solution.
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