Building Your Sound Relationship House: Part 5- Managing Conflict
The next step in building your own sound relationship house is learning to manage conflict. I believe that conflict is part of every relationship, but it doesn’t have to be something that blows up or makes our relationship less enjoyable. Learning to manage conflict in a healthy and supportive way will enhance our relationships, instead of make them weaker. Learning to manage conflict includes three components: accepting your partner’s influence, dialoging about problems, and practicing self-soothing. Accepting your partner’s influence is just what it sounds like. This means valuing our partner’s feedback and taking their opinions into consideration when making a decision.
Dialoging about problems and learning to self-soothe are much more difficult skills to learn. Dialoging about problems means using skills learned in therapy such as using a soft versus harsh start up, learning to make repair attempts, speaking and listening in a way that looks to understand instead of blame, and avoiding the four horsemen of the apocalypse (Gottman’s name for things we do in arguments that lead to unproductive discussions and often divorce). Talking in this way is not natural to most people, but once it is learned, communication in a relationship is so much more effective.
Self-soothing is learning to calm ourselves down during an argument so the argument can stay productive. When most people fight with their significant other, they get angry. Anger is okay, but once it reaches a certain point (95 heart beats per minute to be exact) we stop being able to have a productive discussion. Learning to recognize our signs that we are getting to this point and calming ourselves down before we get there are important. Otherwise, little disagreements can easily become screaming matches that leave both people feeling hurt instead of opportunities to improve the relationship.
These skills are difficult, but very possible to learn. Luckily, through couples therapy with a trained Gottman practitioner, these skills can be learned and mastered. If you and your partner would like to learn more about enhancing your relationship through scientifically based Gottman’s couples therapy or you would like to build a stronger sound relationship house, call Life Enhancement Counseling Services at 407-443-8862 to set up an appointment with a trained mental health counselor.