As a counselor, I have had many clients go into heated meaningless arguments about the most insignificant things. Things such as a comment that had every good intention but the spouse receiving the message misinterpreted the message and took offense. Many times, this happens because of being stuck and holding on to negative feelings. Dr. Sue Johnson in her book Hold me Tight explains that couples get stuck in three patterns called “the Daemon Dialogues.” Usually, when we feel vulnerable and unsafe, we begin to build distance and resentment instead of recognizing the patterns and changing them.
Here are 5 simple ways to avoid using destructive patterns that sabotage your relationship. How many of these can you do?
1. Avoiding Conflict Satisfies Your Needs
No, it doesn’t. Keeping inside what is bothering you is only building up an erupting, vicious, angry volcano. An easier way to address conflict is to talk about what is bothering you in a calm, and respectful way soon after the situation occurs in a non-threatening manner.
2. Mind Reading, The Problem Solver
Why is it so hard to ask your partner’s thoughts? Because it is easier to assume what they are thinking or feeling based on history or misinterpretation of their actions. Mind-reading creates animosity and opens the door to misunderstanding. A better approach is to show interest and ask instead of assuming. Having an open mind and being interested in your partners perspective will get you closer and help your communication.
3. Let the Character Attacks Begin
Pointing out your partner’s flaws when you are angry or arguing is not only insensitive it creates a negative vibe for the relationship. Name calling, or labels (lazy, controlling, needy…) are disrespectful and hurtful ways of getting back to the person you love. Over time, the names start tearing down the respect you once had for your partner. Remember to be respectful and to be fair even when you are angry.
4. Overgeneralizing, When There’s Nothing Else
Don’t fight dirty to make your point at your partner’s expense. This technique never works well. Overgeneralizing with “You always” or “You never” bring any conflict to another level. No one likes to be wrongly or falsely accused, and if you think for a second, your statement isn’t always accurate. Growing a healthy relationship requires intention and love not negativity and over exaggeration. Focus on understanding the conflict and changing the behavior not on winning the fight.
5. Bring Out the Blame Game
Conflict is difficult for most people, and it becomes even harder when we are being blamed for something. Your partner is the person you love and care for, and the last thing you want is to feel like he or she sees you as a weak or wrong person. However, the truth is it is easier to blame others than to admit we are at fault. Next time you discuss a conflict take the opportunity to evaluate both parties needs objectively and find resolutions that meet in the middle and makes you both happy.
Using these 5 Simple ways to work with your partner can reduce conflict and build a safe and connected relationship. Learn to recognize the patterns that are keeping you stuck in a negative cycle. Your partner is not your enemy, invest time learning and accepting each other. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship but using a positive approach can significantly reduce struggles and strengthen your relationship.