A communication approach that many couples engage in when experiencing a conflict is what I like to call “Lawyers in a Courtroom.” One person presents his/her case, complete with a list of the partner’s transgressions to prove that she is right and her partner is wrong. The partner, in turn, compiles his list of rebuttals and responds with a ledger of her wrongdoings. This type of exchange frequently features verbal repetition and an escalation of volume. By the end, both parties feel hurt and angry and even more entrenched in original viewpoints.
This approach might work if there was a judge or a jury who ultimately decided who “wins”. It might be okay if each person were to leave after the verdict is read and never have to interact again.
The thing about committed relationships is, you still have to live with your partner. Or at least continue to interact with them. So even if you were able to prove to your partner that she is “wrong” and you are “right,” how loved do you think she feels? How respected? How understood? If she is left feeling devalued and resentful, what have you really won?
The good news is, there are some simple changes a couple can make in the way they handle disagreements. And by handling them in a different way, conflicts go from being painful and negative to an opportunity to understand each other and feel closer and more intimate.
The husband of one of my couple-clients said at the end of our work together, “I didn’t want to start marriage therapy because I thought I would have to change who I was as a person. What I found was that you gave us really helpful tools that changed our whole relationship for the better.”
If you are interested in learning a new way of handling disagreements with your partner, please contact me to schedule a couples counseling session.
Susanna Rains Moriarty: Phone: +1 (706) 395 5345 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org