Conflict | Fighting
Couples Counseling | Columbia, Mo
You might read the quote above and feel confused. Which makes sense, as one of the most common beliefs is that couples counseling is designed to resolve your conflict. It's not (that's another story, though). But don't fret, if you think that. We love John Gottman (and the Gottman Method Couples Therapy) and here's our take on what he's saying.
Basically, people in relationships are going to fight. More importantly, people in relationships are going to want to fight about the same things, over and over and over. "Why doesn't she listen? Why doesn't he help out more? I'm stressed when she spends money from that one account. I'm frustrated that he puts so much emphasis on his friendships over our relationship." The 'issues' may change, but the long and short of it is that they stay consistent over time. However, the fact that you have a perpetual problem is not an issue in and of itself!! Let me repeat, this is not an issue in and of itself.
When Conflict Hurts Couples
Conflict is such a common reason couples seek out couples counseling. It very well may be the number one reason people get in the door and/or start to hunt for a couples counselor. And why shouldn't this be the case? Conflict is uncomfortable for most people and especially so when it's going poorly.
A lot of the work we do with couples in couples counseling is to help them learn how to fight. When partners get into the habit of fighting in the wrong ways, things can turn nasty really fast (the four horsemen of relationships rear their heads). There can be vicious jabs, hurtful names, verbal attacks - you name it, we've seen it. When we get to a place where we can't discuss something without being vicious, attacking, or shut down, then we've firmly reached the point of needing to modify something that we're currently doing.
It's Okay to Fight (yes, really...)
First and foremost, and we can't emphasize this enough - IT'S OKAY TO FIGHT. YES, we're serious. It is absolutely okay to fight. Again, we want to teach you how to fight, so that you're not engaging in criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, or contempt, and that you're instead left feeling:
- understood, even if you disagree
- valued even though you hold an opposite opinion
- safe and supported for sharing your truth
Those are key. We, by no means, condone fighting in the wrong way. Importantly, we know what to look for in conflict and how to change the key aspects of 'bad' conflict. A lot of the work we do in couples counseling centers around this (and there's science behind it!). We support partners in learning how to fight while building their friendship system. This is also key.
Building the Friendship System in Tandem
One of the things we assess for when working with partners is that there's a solid friendship in place, which might seem silly but is actually key to a successful, long-term relationship. When this friendship is in place, navigating the terrain of fighting becomes much easier and safer. When it's lacking (which happens - that doesn't mean you're doomed), we spend time rebuilding it on the front end and then shift into learning how to fight towards the back end (or vice versa; there's no cookie cutter approach).
Okay, You've Got Me Hooked - Now What?
Glad to hear it. Couples counseling is one of our specialties and an area that we feel pretty passionately about. Since you're ready, reach out by clicking on contact us below or by calling us. We look forward to working with you!