Why do we keep having the same fight? Managing conflict in relationships
The relationships that we build and sustain can add so much value to our lives. Being in a romantic relationship can be absolutely wonderful, but it can also feel like a lot of work sometimes – especially when you can’t get away from your partner during an international pandemic. You may notice that you and your partner may often be having the same argument and wonder why you two can’t come to some sort of resolution. But finding resolution not always that easy – it’s important to look at content versus process when identifying and managing conflict in relationships.
Content is what the conversation or argument may be about. Maybe you and your partner are constantly butting heads on finances. Maybe your common argument is around your current sex life. Or maybe, you can’t agree on what activities are safe right now during coronavirus. When you can identify a common theme or an issue that feels unresolved, chances are, you are caught up in conflict centered around content.
Process, on the other hand, is how the argument plays out from before it even starts to after it is over. Process takes place regardless of content. Maybe one partner tends to get angry and makes a comment and the other partner shuts down, and there never feels like there is a chance to actually talk through what made the original partner angry. If you can identify a cycle that happens regardless of what the conflict was about, you might be facing difficulty with how you and your partner process conflict.
How you respond to conflict may be incredibly different than how your partner responds. How you were raised affects how you value and prioritize what you believe matters in your life, and that may also be quite different from your partner. For example, you might have been raised to express your feelings and your partner might have been raised to keep the peace. In this scenario, you and your partner will have to figure out a way to process the conflict that you both can agree on.
While there are so many identifiable strengths in the uniqueness of every relationship, sometimes there are areas that may not feel as strong. If you and your partner are getting caught up in conflict, regardless of content or process, you may benefit from learning more about your partner’s individual needs, where to compromise, and how to better express your own needs. Working with a couple’s therapist will help to identify what works and what doesn’t work in your relationship. A couple’s therapist can help you learn about your relationship using evidence based practice like the Gottman “conflict blueprint” approach to help you sort out what areas of content are solvable and unsolvable, and what to do about that. Maybe the way you have gone about attempting to resolve conflict in your relationship worked before and doesn’t feel like it is working anymore. Sometimes changing up your responses, identifying patterns, and trying something new may be the trick to give your relationship the reboot that it needs in order to squash the recurring conflict you are facing in your relationship.
If you and your partner are having trouble resolving conflicts, make an appointment to come in and see one of our couples therapists. WE’re here to help your relationship survive the pandemic and we’d love to meet with you.
Written by: Rachel Hagfors, LPC Therapist at Lincoln Park Therapy Group
Photo by pxhere.com.