Couples conflict resolution

When a couple are arguing often, they’re told they need to communicate. “You need to talk to each other” people say. Everyone knows that couples conflict resolution would be ideal, but very often, the couple don’t know how to achieve it and can even fear that by discussing the problem, they’re going to make it worse due to past experience of disagreements.

Generally speaking, couples conflict resolution is being able to reach a compromise or a solution that suits both parties, but what couples often opt for is blame and/or accusation. This leaves them with little, if any space for maneuver and ends up in the disagreement turning into a full scale argument that falls into the “I’m right, you’re wrong” category - nothing is learned by either one and nothing moves on to a productive place.

When couples are angry or upset with each other, they tend to say things like “you’re always…”, “you never…”, “if you had just…”, “you should have…”, “why did you…”. The motive behind accusation is to make the partner change his/her behaviour, because the belief is that if the partner changes, everything would be fine. This doesn’t work because both parties want the other one to change – stalemate.

Don’t worry though, to have a happy relationship it doesn’t have to be harmonious all the time, with never a cross word. But for a happy relationship there needs to be couples conflict resolution, disagreements need to have an end to them rather than a blurred line where eventually the couple start talking again and everything goes “back to normal”. There needs to be a point to falling out and feeling upset and that point should be that the couple have learned how not to have the exact same argument again in the future.

To do this it’s useful to concentrate on your own feelings rather than your partner’s behaviour. It’s much easier to listen to someone talking about their feelings than it is to listen to what a twerp you’ve been or how you’ve messed things up. For example, if your partner has a habit of not wanting to join you at certain social events, say “I feel lonely when I go on my own” rather than “you’re so selfish, other partners do it for their partners, why can’t you?” the former is far more likely to get heard and the latter is far more likely to cause your partner to stop listening or cause a defensive reaction.

Focusing on your feelings rather than your partner’s behaviour, is more likely to encourage your partner to:

  •     listen to what you say
  •     empathise with your position
  •     discuss it in a constructive manner.

The benefits of approaching relationship conflict this way is:

  •     increased closeness, satisfaction and understanding
  •     resolution and change
  •     less future conflict (certainly not the same argument over and over again).

Accusation and blame does not lead to conflict resolution, it leads only to resistance, deception and further conflict. Give your feelings a chance the next time you and your partner have a fall-out and see how much better it goes.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Kent BR1 & West London W1G
Kent BR1 & West London W1G

Samantha De Bono is a Couples Counsellor and Mediation Practitioner in Bromley and Harley Street.

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