Posted by: rejuvenatembwc | April 16, 2010

It Takes Two To Tango

Last month we discussed how conflict leads to the erosion of relationships. It is not what you argue about, but how you argue. We looked at the research from Stanley and Markman and listed the contributing factors that cause a relationship to end in divorce.

This month I will focus on a few things that can improve the quality of your relationship and decrease conflict. Stanley and Markman outlined four “danger signs” of conflict. These are patterns in your relationship that keep conflict going. I hear it in therapy with couples that say, “We fight about the same things over and over. It feels like we are just spinning our wheels.” There is no closure and everything keeps getting swept under the metaphorical “rug.”

Identifying the patterns that lead to conflict can help you and your mate stop the spinning and get back on solid ground. The first danger sign that leads to conflict is Escalation. This is when partners respond back and forth negatively to each other, making things worse and worse. This happens on several levels. Couples get caught in this cycle and make threats to the relationship – threatening divorce or giving ultimatums. The second danger sign pattern is Invalidation. This is when one partner subtly or directly puts down the thoughts, feelings, or character of the other. Calling names, telling each other “you should not feel / think that way,” are all forms of invalidation. Withdrawal/Avoidance is the next danger sign that leads to conflict. This is when a partner unwillingly participates or stays with important discussions. This can be seen when a partner “shuts down,” literally walks away, or avoids any topic they do not want to discuss. Typically the female is the pursuer and male the avoider. The final danger sign is Negative Interpretations. This occurs when one believes that the motives of the other are more negative than is really the case. This one is very destructive because this gets interwoven into a person’s belief systems. You see your husband as lazy and when you get home you find his laziness and ignore what he has done. You hear things more negatively than intended. You believe the worst in each other instead of the best.

These four danger signs predict conflict is coming, the more conflict you have the worse your relationship gets. Tune into your relationship and find ways that you create this. Typically when a couple is having problems they want to blame everything on the other. This is not constructive because you cannot control other people. You can bring it to their attention but it is up to them to want to change. Their thoughts and feelings about you have to be validated just as much as you want your thoughts and feelings about them to be validated. This means that if you want your needs met then you have to work to meet the needs of your partner. This is part of what causes the spinning in the relationship. You both want your needs met but are unwilling to do what is necessary to meet the needs of your partner.

Find out the needs of your partner and spend more time trying to meet these needs than harboring resentment about your needs not being met. All of this works much better if you know how to communicate to your spouse in a safe and loving manner that does not include the danger signs above. The book Fighting For Your Marriage is written by Stanley and Markman and details out the information I am providing in this article along with many techniques on how to get conflict out of your relationship for good.

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