When couples handle their differences badly, they typically end up throwing ‘hand grenades’ at each other. In other words, they do everything that is unhelpful in terms of resolving their differences, and inevitably end up fighting, or worse.
The result is, their issues go underground even though outwardly each person seems to have moved on from the dispute.
Despite couples making a conscious effort to search for the right answers to resolve their conflicts, most difficult conversations become strangled by each partner’s thinking rather than their actions.
What goes wrong…
When couples do not talk with each other, it is almost certain that they will become entrenched in their positions. Each person increasingly becomes sure that they are right and therefore their partner is most definitely wrong.
In essence, couples become polarized, and should these conflicts persist in this manner, the relationship eventually begins to fragment.
These difficult conversations are typically not about getting the information right, they are about differences in each person’s perceptions, their interpretations, values and worldview.
Why is this a problem…
One of the main problems with arguing, is that it inhibits a person’s ability to learn and understand how the other person makes sense of the issues and situation. Rather than helping people understand and resolve their differences, arguing results in a distancing between the couple.
How to fix it…
A major reason why many couples attend marriage counselling, is to get help in containing their points of difference, and to stop the harmful battle of warring words and innuendoes (hand grenades) that couples throw at each other. Only then can a more constructive and respectful approach to resolving their problems occur. (See managing conflict better)
To achieve this, warring couples need to approach their issues with combination of:
1. calmness and an intention to listen
2. respect for both self and the other
3. a preparedness for open and honest communication
Other wise couples will remain positional and deadlocked.
The containment of conflict within a counselling session can be a transformative force for arguing couples. In marriage counselling, the couple is able to explore and understand their own and others’ values, world views, experiences, assumptions, expectations and conclusions.
New ground is created as a result and the couple is drawn together over their points of difference rather than being torn apart by them. This process may not solve all the problems faced by the couple, but it is an important first step.
See our related article on Managing Conflict Better