Conflict: The Pathway to Intimacy (Part 1)

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relationship conflictCouples believe that when they are in love, marriage is about agreeing, about NOT fighting. They’re afraid that if they disagree, or fight, something must be wrong with their relationship.

Conflict does not cause divorce. In actuality, the number one predictor of divorce is the habitual avoidance of conflict. Instead of avoiding conflict in a relationship, let’s take a look at what the real problem is.

Conflict:

  • Every happy and successful couples has at least ten areas of disagreement that they will never agree on
  • Conflict is the result of unrealistic, un-communicated or unmet expectations
  • Most fights are really protests over emotional disconnection
  • Research shows there are three times in a married couples’ life that the divorce rate rises – before the 2-year, 7 year and 20 year anniversary dates and we are never more emotional than when our primary love relationship is threatened

Understanding your Negative Cycle:
When conflict occurs, each of you should do the following assessment of yourselves.
When my partner and I are not getting along:

  1. I often react by … (describe your behaviors) (I attack, avoid conflict, become cold or aloof, blame, criticize, defend, get quiet, leave, withdraw)
  2. My partner often reacts to me by … (describe his/her behaviors)
  3. When my partner reacts this way, I often feel … (I feel abandoned, afraid, alone or lonely, angry, attacked, confused, discounted, frustrated, guilty, hopeless, I’ve failed, ignored, inadequate, judged, etc.)
  4. When I feel this way, my perception is … (s/he must not care, I must not matter, I’m not good enough, etc.)
  5. When I feel this way I long for or need …
  6. When I react the way I do, I guess that my partner feels …

What then is the real problem?

Most fights in a relationship are really protests over an emotional disconnection the couple is experiencing. And, underneath all the distress that has surfaced, each partner is asking each other:

“Can I count on you and depend on you? Are you there for me? Will you respond to me when I need you, or when I call? Do I matter to you? Am I valued and accepted by you? Do you need me, do you rely on me?”

Each person desperately needs to know: Are you accessible to me when I need you? Will you respond to me when I call? And will you be emotionally engaged when I am distressed?

All the anger, criticism towards each other, and demands stated are really cries for love. They are using whatever means necessary to draw their mate back towards them and reestablish an emotional connection and feeling of safety in the relationship.

An Example of This Might Be:
“When I get angry with you because you spend so much time on the computer, and accuse you of thinking only about yourself, I really am concerned about loosing you. Sometimes I feel that I’m uninteresting, that you must be bored with me, and I’m afraid that you no longer care about me. I’m overwhelmed with the thought that I’m no longer a priority to you. I miss you and wish we would spend more time together. But I don’t know how to ask you, so instead, I yell at you – hoping you’ll hear the desperate plea in my voice- that I really need and want you involved in my life.”

Visit part 2 of this series: Learn How to Stop this Negative Cycle.

Image credit: baynvc.blogspot.com

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