The Greek word for conflict is agen, which translated into English is agony. If you have ever been in a conflict you will know it can be agonizing. John Gottman in his work with couples found that the inability to resolve conflict is an early predictor of divorce. Thus, it is important that couples learn methods of conflict resolution and avoid stonewalling, criticism, contempt and defensiveness.
Psychologist and author Harriet Lerner stated that a good fight can clear the air. She writes,
“… it’s nice to know we can survive conflict and even learn from it. Many couples, however, get trapped in endless rounds of fighting and blaming that they don’t know how to get out of. When fights go unchecked and unrepaired, they can eventually erode love and respect which are the bedrock of any successful relationship.”
Conflict can be tricky to navigate. Here are some quick tips that can help facilitate a fair fight.
• Use the “S-word” – (stupid)
• Use put downs
• Swear at your partner
• Use absolutes –“you never, you always, you …”
• Finger point
• Text fight
• Bring up past conflicts (make the fight today about the issue today)
• Name call –“you are a…”
• Physically touch –push, shove, etc.
• Use the “D” word –(divorce) –its threatening and erodes stability
• Throw sensitive hurts in partner’s face –you know your partner’s weakness, don’t use it against them
• React defensively
• Eye roll -contempt
• Pull your children into the conflict by confiding in them
• Put children in the middle of the two of you
• Argue in front of the children
• Use active listening – “what I hear you saying is..”
• Use “I feel statements”
• Take time outs –if conflict too heavy take a break (don’t forget to call a time in)
• Agree to talk about the conflict when you are not so ‘wound up’
• Empathize –what do you hear your partner staying –listen with your heart
• Use a talking stick if you continually interrupt each other
• Make time to talk –conflict resolution takes time, it’s not a quick fix –schedule it
• Get help if you can’t move forward
Gottman found the average couple waits six years before getting help with marital problems. By that time most couples have already developed negative patterns of fighting and have often created some deep wounds. Problems do not go away automatically and sweeping them under the rug only causes them to build up over time. Resolving conflict can provide stability for the relationship and model healthy communication skills to children.
There are lots of helpful resources in the city. Don’t be afraid to reach out, if you had a tooth ache you would get help, is counseling any different?
Dr. Michele has worked with pre-marriage couples in Hong Kong for more than twenty years, she also works with couples in conflict, couples who are struggling to communicate, and couples who are stressed.
As with in-person therapy, all information are kept confidential.
If you are interested in scheduling a session with Dr. Michele Bland or have further queries, please contact us today.