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Conflict in relationships and marriage 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 and can save a marriage. Fighting is not predictive of divorce. Avoidance, disengagement, contempt, criticism, and the silent treatment are. 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, such as setting aside a weekly meeting time to discuss your relationship. Gender differences discussed below describe why this can be more challenging.
Men and Women have core emotional differences in responding to stressful conflict:
- If there’s a conflict woman want to talk about it.
- Men, however, often need to pull away, particularly if there is a focus on what he may be doing wrong. He may feel the need to intermittently withdraw into himself. One of the reasons for this is physical. Men react with more blood flow to their muscles. They get fidgety, and women think they are not listening. Negative feedback can be interpreted by men as not measuring up, causing shame. Men are better able to stay in the room and listen to women if they do not think they’re being harshly blamed for their distress. Using positive reinforcement instead of criticism will make it more likely that the other partner will do more of the things that are wanted.
- A woman experiences suffering whenever her husband shouts at her, ignores her, or otherwise does something that scares her and seems to threaten their bond.
- Men and women should strive to empathize with each other’s vulnerabilities which they do not feel to the same degree — namely fear and shame.
- It is hard to imagine most people being capable of reaching out to their partners in the heat of an argument. However, it can be done. Men can learn how to step up to the plate and stop withdrawing or being reactive, and women can acquire a mindset to understand that her husband really does want to make her happy and to stop being so critical. Ultimately, couples must decide that the relationship is more important than all those things they do that annoy each other. Couple’s counseling can be particularly valuable in helping to resolve these issues.
- Both men and women need to also connect nonverbally. When that need is satisfied, verbal discussion of difficult subjects is easier to tackle. The deepest moments of intimacy occur through touch, sex, doing things together. This increases the likelihood of productive discussion and reduces the chances of hurtful actions. When couples feel connected, men want to talk more and women need to talk less, so they meet somewhere in the middle. Each partner should endeavor to make a conscious effort to consider the other’s point of view.
Useful steps to resolve disagreements:
- Have an agreed upon “Time Out” rule when conflict is escalating. For couples to productively address the hurt that underlies anger, it helps to have a previously agreed-upon signal such as a hand gesture to keep disagreements from spiraling out of control. This does not mean they should try to ignore their feelings, but instead find a way to convey that the other person matters more than whatever they’re resentful or anxious about — and then talk. It takes only one person to make the gesture. The partner will feel the impact, even if he or she cannot drop the anger right at that moment.
- 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.
- Remember to make time for fun, relaxing together and talking as friends. Even if the budget is short this month, find activities that don’t cost anything and just enjoy the time together.
- Focusing on the positive can really improve a person’s mood as well as the relationship. In addition, if time is spent with friends who constantly complain about their spouses, it is time to start looking for other friends who are more positive. Being around people who frequently focus on the negative aspects of marriage can breed cancer in your own marriage. It is important to have friends who appreciate their spouses and enjoy spending time with them. These are type of people that can help foster positive thinking about the marriage union.
- Premarital counseling can be extremely valuable.
- Working with a couples therapist/marriage counselor can greatly enhance your relationship.
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