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Conflict in Relationships

couple arguing

It can be difficult maintain a loving attitude toward your partner in times of conflict. You may desperately want to connect but feel more distant and disappointed as communication attempts go nowhere. In those times you may develop anger and resentment due to the same old pattern presenting again.

Depending on the severity and nature of the issue, the approach taken may differ. For example, in an abusive relationship, this type of communication will not be sufficient. For the purpose of this article general relational issues will be addressed.

Examine potential triggers and your reaction to them from a neutral stance or “observer” point of view. Does something in your partners behavior trigger an unhealed issue from your past relationship or childhood experience? Is there a mirror that your partner is reflecting that is something that you mimic yourself? For instance, if you feel abandoned by your partner, how might you abandon yourself in your life by not following through or taking care of yourself? This doesn’t mean that your relational issue doesn’t exist, however may point you in a direction where you may need further healing. This unhealed issue is likely to impact the quality of your relationship.

Many issues stem from inefficient communication or lack of boundaries. A common mistake is to assume that your partner knows how you feel or should know better. If your partner is also triggered due to past trauma, they may be repeating behaviors that are dysfunctional.

Damaging behaviors that destroy relationships:

Avoidance/Distancing- Avoiding the issue, refusal to communicate about the issue, one word answers, one sentence texts.

Silent Treatment- purposely not engaging at all with the goal to cause hurt. This behavior is abusive and must be stopped immediately.

Withdrawal- Partner is emotionally distant, keeps to themselves.

Withholding- Refusal to express love or offer nurture and caring. “The lights are on, but no one is home”.

Being on the receiving end of these behaviors may lead to emotional pain, hurt, anger, and resentment.

The Feedback Loop (by Pia Melody) is a format for healthy, loving communication and boundary setting.

Do not blame, accuse, shame, manipulate or judge. Drop defensiveness or the need to be right.

Do remain open, honest and loving. Remember that your partner may be acting from a wounded place. Listen out of curiosity. Listen with the intent of knowing your partner better.

Data: Report the behavior

When you distance from me……

What you think:

I think that you don’t care about me and no longer love me….

What you feel:

About that I feel ….hurt, sad and lonely….

Vulnerable Request: What you would like instead

In the future, I would prefer if ….you please tell me what is going on for you.

You must have a willing partner as you can’t have a one -way conversation or relationship. Seek help from a qualified therapist to learn skills and get to the root of any unhealthy behaviors that are getting in the way of having a healthy relationship.

Lisa Angelini, LPC, ACCHT

Holistic Psychotherapist and Life Coach


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