Part of what makes a successful marriage is to know how to resolve conflicts that arise with your partner. To help understand what type of impact unresolved conflict can have on a relationship over time and for tips on resolving conflict with your partner, I have interviewed therapist Judith Taylor LCSW.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a clinical social worker in private practice in Lewiston Maine. I work with couples individuals and families. I have been married happily for 31 years to Stephen. I have two grown children. We are a close family and I love it when we can actually be all together.”
What type of impact can not resolving conflict have on the partner relationship over time?
“To allow conflict to be unresolved in a partner relationship is a choice to create distance between the partners. Often couples try and ignore conflict because they are afraid to hurt or be hurt by fighting. Also I think sometimes they hope it will go away by itself. But in my experience, when couples don’t learn to resolve conflicts as they arise, they become a little more estranged from each other each time they let this happen. The end result at best is a couple still living together but feeling very separate from each other, or at worst a relationship that just ends due to lack of intimacy.”
What are 7 tips for resolving conflict with your partner?
“The following are 6 basic tips for resolving conflict in a partner relationship are as follows.
1. Never work on resolving conflict when either or both of you are feeling too angry to think straight or, when children are present.
2. Have a code word or phrase like ‘time out for later’ that it tells each other you will take this matter up when the time is right, and then, when the time is right, do it!
3. Either partner can initiate the talk about the conflict, by respectfully making a “date” to talk about what is going on.
4. Have rules of engagement agreed upon ahead of time. Such as: only one person talks at a time and use ‘I message’. For example not ‘you did this and made me ____’. Instead say, ‘I am feeling_______ about ________ and I wonder how you feel about ________.’
5. Take real time outs if things are not going well, space is a good tool to use between resolving sessions since reflection often helps us to see things clearly and be more objective with our partner.
6. Learn how to compromise and use these skills with each other. One of my favorite phrases I use with my children and husband is ‘What’s it going to take to get you to _________.’ This paves the way to figure out how ‘married’ a person is to what they are doing/believing and where there is room for compromise.
7. Never be afraid to seek some short term counseling to get you through a conflict you can’t resolve alone. I am so pleased to say that I find many young couples who are unafraid to seek help to resolve conflicts in their relationships rather than to keep spinning their wheels and getting nowhere. There seems to be less fear and resistance to seeking outside help with a counselor than there used to be years ago. Younger people seem to know they can come for a while get the help they need and then stop and return at a later date if needed.”
What types of professional help is available for couples seeking help to resolve conflicts in their relationship?
“Professional help is easy to find and there are resources available in most every good sized community.
If the couple is involved in a faith community there may be a minister or pastor who can offer short term counseling as part of his/her ministry. Some churches have marriage enrichment groups that can be helpful. I know both the Catholics and Methodists have formal programs for marriage enrichment. These groups will work on communication and improving relationships between the couple.
For those not in faith communities there are counselors ranging from clinical social workers like myself, to other licensed professional counselors who are trained in counseling. A great therapist website is psychtoday.com. Psychology today gives you access to counselors in your area and information about their training and how they do their work. I know for myself if there is a couple that wants to work on their relationship, I am happy to help make counseling work for them financially and scheduling wise.”
Thank you Judith for doing the interview on tips for resolving conflict with your spouse. For more information on Judith Taylor or her work you can check out her website on therapywithjudith.com
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