The list is a short one; the choice to love, core values, communication, emotional expression, preferences and boundaries and conflict resolution.
Everyone has “work to do” on these. So, what are the steps for conflict resolution?
It is crucial to remember, we are always a work in progress. So, it’s natural to be introspective and see areas of ourselves where we can grow, refine, improve and, yes, change.
While all of these matters, the relating skill which determines whether a relationship ends before “til death do us part” is: Conflict Resolution. There is no close second and here’s why.
Intimately connected couples bond and attach over time.
As their connection expands, their intimacy deepens in all areas – spiritual, intellectual, experiential, emotional and sexual, they become more vulnerable.
They “expose” more and more of their true self to their partner. With this exposure comes risk; the risk of being rejected, judged, criticized, not being heard, understood and loved.
When events such as a conversation, short text message, missed appointment, etc., happens, it can trigger a latent fear held from the past.
The source is irrelevant.
Someone said something and the words landed. They landed on a ‘soft spot” in one of the partners. That partner withdraws, shuts down, responds with angry words, etc. Any and all of these are “issues that call for conflict resolution”.
Issues move people away from the love they share.
Issues, all issues, must be resolved in a manner which moves the partners back to that shared love that was present before the issue surfaced.
Issues cannot be ‘brushed off’ or rationalized with “s/he didn’t really mean it, s/he loves me.” No. Emotions were engaged, the words triggered something, one partner moved away and that is the definition of an issue.
This is the gravity of the matter with regard to conflict resolution.
It requires both couples to operate from their authentic true self, laying down their protection strategies, their fears and being authentic.
The Conflict Resolution Formula: APR
(APR-address process resolve)
Each issue must be addressedby the partner who was triggered by expressing: what happened, what were the words, what is my response, what I did “over here”.
This is all about you. There is no ‘attack’ on them here. There is a statement, expressing the event. Their partners job: Listen. “Listens” as in “hears the impact ‘Over there’.
The response which must happen is to acknowledge what happened over there by repeating the communication as completely as possible without blame, shame, guilt, or justification.
Next, the event is processed with a conversation about the emotional experience and the trigger,
“When you said, ‘Give it here, I’ll do it!’ I heard I wasn’t valued. I wasn’t capable. I was being dominated, again. I felt less than. It’s come up in all my past relationships and it’s something I have been working on me” for a while but it still comes up”.
The partner responds with acknowledgment of the trigger and the impact of the words. It’s a statement of authentic understanding; what their words/actions, caused in their partner and what they felt, their emotional experience.
“I get it. I took over which I have a tendency to do. When I do, you do not sense that I value you, or your contribution to our relationship or that I trust you can do [it] which I know is not the case.
I understand what happened, what I said and what it brought up for you, over there.”
Side note in conflict resolution strategies: “Being authentic” requires any denial, defensiveness, disconnecting, dismissing, and other responses to be shelved.
These kill the conversation; nothing is resolved.
The partners resolve the issue with intentionality
An agreement to “do something different” in the future when a situation arises as happened here. And, they make a commitment to this new agreement.
[Triggered] “I know you value me and support me. I will work on this feeling of not being valued by my partner. When ‘something happens’ and that old feeling begins to rise in me, I will take a pause and let you know what’s happening “over here.” ‘Gosh honey, when you took over with the saleswoman, I could sense that being valued thing I am working on popped up again’. I’ll catch it and I make a commitment to ask you for a hug or for you to take my hand, I’ll move closer, I won’t just disconnect.”
[Partner] “I can do that! I know my part. I jump in.
I take over. I don’t hit the pause button and work with you.
I need to do a better job. I will commit to be more aware of me going forward because I know the response that happens when I “do what I do.” Just snuggle up, or put your hand in my pocket or sit on lap and get my attention. I won’t be perfect at it, it’s been me for a long time, but I will work on it on Me.”
Some juicy make up sex is probably going follow shortly in this conflict resolution model (That’s my take!)
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Why have I been successful? First, my practice is based on the act of choosing to love. Most people cannot define love, it's a choice, not a feeling. Second, all relationships have the same components: choosing love (or not), emotional expression (healthy or unhealthy), preferences and boundaries, and conflicts/issues. It's the relating skills two bring which makes or breaks the love they share. The most important of all skills is conflict resolution. Most people don't know how. These form the core of my practice.
My book titled "Love Your Self, No More Selling Out"focuses on both the choice to love (or not) and relating skills. These are the key ingredients to becoming authentic and vulnerable then experiencing joy-filled relationships.
(Spencer Wendt is also listed in Best Marriage Therapists in Castle Rock)