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What Makes Relationships Work?

By Stephen Britchkow, Licensed Psychologist

Bucks and Eastern Montgomery Counties, Pennsylvania

Conflict in relationships is unavoidable. Like fire, it can be used in a constructive or harmful manner. The skills needed to handle the inevitable disagreements such as money, time, housework, sex, priorities, the kids, etc., are crucial. Fighting isn't predictive of divorce. Avoidance, disengagement, contempt, criticism, and the silent treatment are.
  • Avoid believing that the motives of your partner are more negative than really is the case.
  • Ask what the other was really thinking to get their understanding.
  • Have an agreed upon "Time Out" rule when conflict is escalating.
  • Consider controlling your impulse to argue about an issue when an event triggers it.
  • When your temper starts to flare up, practice self-soothing by taking a few deep breaths or turn on relaxing music.
Seventy percent of the issues couples deal with do not really need to be solved, just discussed well. Avoid predictably bad times for discussion: dinner, bedtime, just getting home from work or while preoccupied with a project or task. Place a priority on your relationship by carving out time for its upkeep. Set aside a weekly meeting time to discuss your relationship.

Useful steps to resolve disagreements:

    1. Agenda Setting-decide on a focus

    2. Brainstorming- spontaneously suggest whatever comes to mind and write it down; and try to keep a sense of humor

    3. Agreement and Compromise-fulfill both partners' underlying needs, endeavor to work as a team

    4. Follow-up- if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Set up a specific time to talk about how well your solution is working and discuss any changes to make it work better.

Remember to make time for fun, relaxing together and talking as friends.

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