Winning relationship battles as a couple
Perhaps it’s the universal thing that all relationships have – conflict. While there are different styles to resolve the conflicts, the relationships that cannot deal with conflict usually end in the therapist’s office or the divorce lawyer’s.
Often in a relationship, fights are more than simple win lose propositions. They act as a barometer of how the partners see the relationship. They can be used as a way of expressing repressed emotion or of re-establishing a power balance in the relationship. Typical examples might be around the division of chores, or taking each other for granted or failing to notice or support your partner in a moment of crisis.
We often talk about specifics when we are arguing as a couple, your family, the washing not being done, not having sex anymore, spend time looking at other women/men and so forth. Yet, while these issues are clearly important, it is usually the underlying ‘it’ that is the problem. Whether that is time spent in the relationship, intimacy, fairness, jealousy etc. Yet these are harder to talk about.
So how do you talk to your partner?
If we look at the anatomy of a fight, we see that the angry couple often get very direct and honest with each other the angrier they get. Unfortunately, they tend to get nasty and hit below the belt as well. Yet, this moment of honesty has the potential to clear the air and allow the real problems to be aired and discussed. In order for you sort out the important issues, you need to be open and honest with each other. If they are only aired in that angry adversarial arena, then the relationship is at risk.
Again, when fights are problematic, we see the partners going hard at it. Interrupting as each point is made, talking over each other. Neither partner is given the opportunity to hear, nor do they give themselves the chance to listen. This can mean going back to basics and disciplining yourself, to take turns to speak and listen. Ask clarifying questions: “Did you think that…?” This might seem false at first, but it forces you to be in the habit of communicating more effectively.
The reality is, that conflict can get heated, and it is easy to get to the point where it is no longer possible to have a rational discussion without shouting, swearing or hitting below the belt. So if it gets to that stage, both partners should be able to put the fight on hold for a period of time, to take the heat out of the situation. Continuing is only likely to make the situation worse.
These are of course some very simple ways in which you might tackle conflict in your relationship. It is true to say that conflict and anger in relationships is one of the key reasons that people seek out counselling. Yet, it is worth trying to think about how you can have conflict in your relationship without resorting to sulking or not talking. You always have the option of relationship counselling to help you.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.