Couple conflict doesn’t always involve “the big five” that we identify in surveys: money, sex, raising the children, house-work or the in-laws.  Lovers fight when they believe their partners don’t care about how they feel. They fight about the pain of disconnection.

Confronted with the anxiety or fear of a woman, a man typically responds with protection/support. But if he does not know how to protect/support or, more commonly, feels like a failure as a protector, he is likely to turn the aggression onto her (usually in the form of criticism, “superior reasoning,” control, etc.) or rein it in by withdrawing in frustration (stonewalling or going quiet). Anger or withdrawal by men often stimulates anxiety or fear of isolation in women, even when his anger or withdrawal has nothing to do with her.

In general, a man is likely to stonewall, be critical, defensive, or contemptuous if he experiences (or, far more commonly, tries to avoid experiencing) feelings of failure or inadequacy as a provider, lover or protector.  A woman is likely to be critical, contemptuous or defensive if she experiences (or is reminded of having experienced) fear of harm, isolation, or deprivation. If the couple does not understand this unconscious, interactive dynamic, they will think they have a “communication” problem and will likely continue to provoke anxiety and shame in each other as they try to talk. They will begin to think that they have an insensitive, or selfish partner, and eventually give up on the relationship without understanding the primitive emotional mechanism that did the real damage.

This is particularly tragic, because the fear-shame interaction is not the result of one party doing something to the other. It happens to them simultaneously. If they do not blame it on each other, they can work together to disarm what is really primitive, pre-verbal dynamic.

When Couple Conflict occurs, here are some ways couples handle their problems.

1. Have It Your Way

Couples who are newly married and haven’t learned how to successfully resolve their differences tend to try to settle things by avoiding confrontation. They give in to each other without ever discussing the heart of the problem. If you find yourself giving in whenever you have an argument with your husband/partner, eventually you will find that you are tired of this pattern and will begin shifting your attitude toward the next stage.

2. Have It My Way

After couples have exhausted themselves by ignoring their own needs, they often turn the opposite way and begin demanding that their needs are now met. A wife who has kept her opinions to herself may suddenly realize that this has contributed to her misery and may start voicing her thoughts and attitudes at every opportunity. But unfortunately, this stage doesn’t work either as husband and wife begin butting heads.

3. Have It Our Way

The third phase involves compromising and negotiating with each other. At first, the couple may be enthusiastic at their new found communication style, but eventually the eagerness fades. About this time in a marriage, couples are facing more time demands and stresses from their parenting responsibilities, financial concerns and hectic schedules. Between an ineffective conflict resolution style and the growing pressures of life, couples may start to doubt their compatibility during this stage.

4. Have It Any Way You Want

This stage marks a sense of resignation. Couples in this stage are exhausted over the unending conflicts and might even feel hopeless that all the unresolved issues will ever be worked out. If you find yourself in this stage, you need expert marriage guidance.

Effective Marital or Partner Communication

Marriages or partnerships don’t have to end up this way because of couple conflict. With effective communication and conflict resolution skills, couples can work through their problems, rather than avoiding or forcing the issues. If you recognize any of these negative stages in your own marriage, start learning better ways to communicate with your husband/wife/partner. If you’re unsure of where to start, check out a few books at the library, read articles online or talk with successful couples you know. If conflict continues to go unresolved, consider visiting a Couples Conflict Coach or therapist to help teach you effective strategies.

Please contact me to book an appointment. My fees are $500 for the first month which includes:

Email conversation and intake

2 hour kick off session

2 additional one hour and 15 minute sessions (up to an hour and a half if needed)

Short, Breakdown calls between sessions if needed.

Unlimited email support for the first month.

After the first month, my fees are $150 per session. I recommend 1-3 months of coaching to get the full value.

If a sliding fee scale is needed, please contact me to share your situation. Sliding fee options are available at $100-$125 a session. Feel free to contact me today for more information or for an appointment.

If you need more information on how Couples Conflict Coaching works, please visit my other website by clicking this link: Couples Conflict Coach.

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