Counselling to help with Conflicts / Anger issues
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Handling relationship conflicts constructively is probably the most important skill you need for a successful relationship.
How do you do that?
Do you tend to withdraw and avoid? Do you tend to lash out in anger? Or do you express what you feel, need and want gently and assertively?
Unfortunately, most men fall into the first two conflict styles. This is often matched by the woman’s dysfunctional conflict style: complain, protest, blame, even verbally attack. In the literature, this is known as the demand-withdraw cycle. The more one pursues and demands, the more the other avoids and vice versa. If not treated, the cycle tends to escalate over time and the relationship spirals into unhealthy patterns.
You really want to take action sooner before the behaviours are so ingrained that it is hard to get out of the rut.
When the demand-withdraw cycle takes over, the filter through which you listen is distorted. That means, you interpret each other in a defensive way, trying to predict and assume what the message means, often incorrectly. It is a common way to deal with vulnerability.
To really get it right in an intimate relationship, you need the courage to reach out and express your vulnerability. Daring to be vulnerable means being honest, sharing the soft feelings of worry, sadness, frustration or hurt before they turn into their aggressive and defensive mode of anger or resignation.
Here are a few more strategies for you to consider.
Invest in maintaining closeness
The level of negativity in the relationship is often not because of what just happened but because of what has not happened in the last weeks and months. The lack of connection and quality time together is the real cause.
When you both invest in creating more opportunities for connection, you build goodwill and trust. This will reduce the intensity of your next conflict. You approach it with a softer tone.
Negotiate your rules and roles
Just as laws keep our social life more predictable and safe, rules and agreements in areas of dispute between partners can reduce the friction in relationships. This can include roles such as house chores, disciplining the kids and decisions around spending money.
Spend some time with your partner to clarify your values and expectations in those common areas of conflict. Obviously, family life is very dynamic. Emotions run high and family life can not be run by the book. Still, it is important to clarify how and what things matter most or matter less.
Research tells us that about two thirds of marriage conflicts are never resolved. Yes, you read right. Some issues are solvable and others are perpetual. So what is the healthy approach towards those perpetual issues? Acceptance and letting go might feel like a defeat or make you sad,and you may resist that. Yet, ask yourself how well anger and criticism have worked. The paradox is that partners are more willing to take steps to adjust their behaviours when they feel accepted.
No harm principle
Conflicts can trigger deep-seated fears of abandonment, failure, loss, shame, violence and more. These fears can be extreme and intense, and flood your body with rage or panic. When emotions are running high the risk is of over-reacting and causing hurt to each other. In such moments your frontal-thinking brain is hijacked by your primitive fight/flight brain. No point in any advice or strategies how to manage the conflict but at the very least you should both make the rule of ‘no harm’ a strict guiding principle. Focus on issues, not on the faults of the person, and you make a healthy culture of managing conflicts.
Marriage researchers tell us that repair attempts are the secret weapon of emotionally intelligent couples, even though many of them are not aware that they are doing something so powerful.These couples become experts at sending and receiving the cues of repair attempts. So what are these repair attempts?
Most partners do this naturally but under-appreciate their skills. Any long relationship will have some successful problem-solving attempts. We are often biased to look at the causes of problems and overlook the causes of solutions or success. The repair attempts are the resilience of your relationship. They are similar to how we bounce back from any other setback in life. Are you taking your setbacks /failures as a testimony to your character flaws or as an opportunity to learn and grow?
Partners who operate from a growth mindset tend to see the conflicts as an important part of their ongoing adaptation and learning. Their attitude of humility and openness leads to more accommodating and acceptance. They are more willing to engage in acts of repair such as saying sorry, acts of kindness or gentle expressions of affection, in order to grow and improve their relationship.