How to Break Through Relationship Conflict
In a relationship or marriage, one key ingredient that keeps a couple together is the practice of resolving conflicts. Love goes far, but it only goes so far. It is difficult to keep good feelings alive in the midst of strife. Eventually, something has to give, and too often it is the commitment to making things work.
A couple, like an individual, typically has the instinct to try to solve one’s own problems. However, a couple–again like an individual–has blind spots that create challenges. It is sometimes difficult to go beyond the immediate situation or issue without an objective party to help neutralize the high emotions enough to get to a place of understanding and negotiation. This is where couples work can help, and move you along further in less time.
Typically, couples come into therapy as a “last ditch” effort. Professional help is often put off until separation is imminent–the point at which one cannot “take it” anymore. The reluctance to seek help outside the marriage is understandable, but too often fuels the fire in perpetuating negative cycles. The good news is that if both individuals motivated to stay together, couples work can still be effective in repairing the damage in the connection and the hurt feelings. Recognition of these matters has encouraged newly formed couples–even before marriage–to enter couples work and correct the problems that keep getting in the way.
Intimacy is something we seem to take for granted–we should all be good at it, right? Knowledge and skills are required to maintain a healthy relationship. I work with couples. I get to see relationships from the outside. My insight doesn’t come from some trick where I magically see what’s “really going on.” Rather, observing from the outside, I can be objective. Objectivity is the real magic.
Inside the relationship, it can be difficult to be aware. Inside relationships, we get tripped up with hurt, resentment, old triggers– all of which work as filters that can keep us from being powerfully related to our partners. They also keep us from addressing the core issues in our relationships. Empathy for one’s partner, as well as for oneself, can break through this filters. But, that is only if you can get to that place of compassion for your partner.
In couples work, both individuals identify and learn about their own and their partner’s problematic patterns. We work together to discover the thinking and feeling behind the dynamic. We slow down to observe the patterns that lead to repeatedly being triggered. , causing interference in harmonious relating. And we identify maladaptive coping patterns by looking at the attachment need behind the behavior. When our partners can meet our attachment needs, the destructive cycles in our relationships end.
My approach to coaching and counseling is to get hired and fired, as soon as possible. I do this by empowering couples to take on the role I have as the observer to their own relationship. This includes teaching couples how to interrupt or even prevent the negative cycles, by becoming aware of the triggers and patterns that rule us. Only then can you begin to develop new ways of interacting. This creates a different approach and a world of possibilities for couples.