Couples in Conflict

All relationships go through cycles of harmony, disharmony and repair. What’s important is to recognize that it is just a cycle and you can probably repair it. Whatever is the focus of the disharmony is probably not the real issues in any case.

  1. Turn toward each other. Remember you are in love with each other even though it might not feel that way in the moment. If you love someone, you want to make them happy. So how important is this issue in the long run? Ask that all important question,” Do I want to be right or do I want to be happy?
  2. Time out. When one or the other is so upset as to be enraged, nothing is going to get resolved. Further attempts at resolution in this case will only deepen the conflict. Take time out and let tempers cool down. Then you can attempt to seek repair.
  3. Testosterone and cortisol. When men get angry, they get a shot of testosterone which makes them angrier, which gives them more testosterone which makes them angrier until they become enraged. There is no reasoning with a man in rage. Time out is definitely appropriate. When women get angry they get flooded with cortisol which increases the stress level they feel. Women then want to resolve the conflict and will continue to process the issue so they can get relief from the cortisol. Unfortunately the cortisol dissipates very slowly and even though the issue way have been resolved she may continue the processing. Again time out is appropriate but may be difficult for her.
  4. Recognizing reactive mind. When one or the other partner is being run by hormones it is very difficult to get into repair. If both are enraged nothing will get resolved. More than time out, a physical separation may be necessary. A walk around the block; a visit to the coffee shop may help to cool things down and get into repair.
  5. Focused listening is a process that will only work if both parties are not in anger. If one or the other is triggered or in reactive mind, it won’t work. We use very effectively to resolve issues, once things have cooled down. Each person get 15 minutes to talk while the other repeat back what has been said. Keep changing until you find resolution or agree to revisit the issue after more research has been done.
  6. Getting help. Most couples wait 5-7 years before seeking help for their troubled relationship. One wag once said that no relationship should go unsupervised. Sometimes it just helps to have a witness or maybe a referee to keep things on a more stable emotional plain.