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Caring for our Couple Relationship By Working Through Conflicts


by Carl and Nancy Terry

Conflict in a close intimate relationship is inevitable. This statement is probably even more true today when we are dealing with COVID 19, and racial and social justice issues.  We are living in a difficult time of stress and change; we do not know what the future will bring.  One thing that can get us through this difficult time is our couple relationship, but it can also be a time of disagreements, quarrels, irritations, and conflict with the one we love the most.

Believe it or not, these conflicts have the potential for bringing us closer, if we work through them with good communication and conflict resolution skills.   Given the opportunity we can either work through the anger and conflict and come up with a mutually acceptable solution or we can ignore it or give in and end up feeling more distant from one another.

There are Four C’s for resolving Conflict:

  • Capitulation – Issue is not as important as you thought, so you give in as a gift
  • Compromise – Some of your solution and some of mine
  • Co-existence – Cannot agree on a solution, so you agree to disagree, but let go of the emotion.
  • Collaboration – Coming together to find a solution that is creative and probably not considered by either of you before.

We want to share with you a collaboration process that has been helpful to us.  Are we perfect at it?  No way, but it is a model that we have found helpful.

  1. Cool Down. Find a way to relax.  You may need to take a Time Out separately but agree on a time to come back together.  Each will have their personal ways of relaxing, but then when you come back together, sit comfortably and relaxed, you might even hold hands.
  2. Keep cool. Agree not to attack, blame, or provoke each other.  Use your “I” statements and listening skills.  Stay away from “you” messages.
  3. Define the disagreement. What is each one’s point of view? You will want to make sure the issue that has come up is the “real” issue. Do not hurry through this step.  You might even write down the issue from each one’s point of view. Keep clarifying the issue. Agree on a shared meaning for the issue.
  4. Developing Solutions. Brainstorm as many options as you can.  It is important to list at least 8 to 10 solutions, because it is often as you get to the last ones that you become creative in potential solutions.
  5. Examine the solutions. Which ones seem reasonable to both of you.  Talk them over. Maybe they are not perfect but strive to agree on one that you will try.
  6. Implement the Solution. Carry out your plan.
  7. Evaluate the Outcome. Come back together later after trying the solution and evaluate the outcome. Did it work? Are modifications needed?
  8. Find a way to celebrate what you have accomplished

Remember, conflicts are an opportunity to learn more about each other and to deepen your understanding of each other.  You may find that you are feeling closer to each other.

For additional information see, Love and Anger in Marriage by David Mace.   

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Five Communication Tips for Couples

Tip 1: Know That It’s Not About You!* If your partner is experiencing an issue, it’s their issue, they own it. It’s