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Learn Conflict Prevention Skills in Relationship Counseling
Relationship Counseling: Conflict Prevention Skills
Relationship counseling can help you understand how to resolve disagreements with your partner. However, ideally, you will also learn skills that help you to prevent fighting in the first place!
Today, you will learn more about what conflict prevention really means in your relationship, and how seeing a therapist for relationship counseling can help. (Related Article: Marriage Counseling- Fixing How You Fight).
Prevent, Don’t Avoid
Now, you may have read that first paragraph and thought, wait, wouldn’t preventing conflict actually be a bad thing for my relationship? How can we resolve problems and work through things if we aren’t arguing?
I think that’s where it’s important to distinguish the difference between prevention and avoidance. I’ll use an example. Let’s say you get in your car and the check engine light is on. If you choose to take a preventative approach, you will go and get your car checked out and fixed. But, you will also make an effort to get regular oil changes and tune ups to prevent that light from coming on again in the future. (Related Article: How Putting off Marriage Therapy Damages Your Relationship)
An avoidant approach (I’ll admit, I often fall into this category!) would be to wait as long as possible to get your car checked out. You might just ignore the light. Or maybe you find ways to work around it. Either way, you will probably end up with a broken down car and you will still have to get it fixed. After it’s fixed, you might just forget that it happened, until the light inevitably comes back on again one day. (Related article: Marriage Myths: “Never Go to Bed Angry”).
The avoidant approach to conflict actually just leads to worse conflict. For instance, if you and your partner avoid discussing a big disagreement and pretend like it isn’t there, you will still need to eventually deal with that disagreement. But, this time, it might be worse. You may argue, and it probably won’t be very productive. If you take a preventative approach to conflict, you will still need to have hard conversations with your partner. (Related article: The Anatomy of an Apology). However, putting in the extra effort along the way can help to mitigate the conflict and struggle and reach a better, longer-lasting resolution in the end.
Preventative Relationship Maintenance
So, how exactly do you do this? What does preventative maintenance look like for your relationship? Taking a preventative approach to issues in your marriage requires small, intentional changes in the way you interact with your partner and approach disagreements. Let’s talk about a simple trick to change the way you and your partner talk about conflict. (Related article: Relationship Counseling- Reframing Conflict).
Complaining Instead of Blaming
It is completely okay to be frustrated with your partner’s actions. It’s okay to disagree with them. However, one approach that will not help you and your spouse reach understanding and process conflict effectively is approaching these issues in a critical or accusatory way. It can be very easy to bring up one of your frustrations in a way that blames your partner and criticizes them. It’s understandable, you are frustrated, after all! However, there is a better way to “get through” to your spouse, especially if you are upset about the topic at hand.
Instead of rushing into blame, try complaining instead. (Source). I know that sounds odd, but let’s look at an example:
“You said you would help me pick up the groceries this week. I gave you the list and everything, and you totally forgot.”
“Work has been really crazy lately, and I am struggling to keep up. I noticed we are running out of some of our basic groceries, and that is really adding to my stress. We agreed you would take care of grocery shopping this week. I’m really sad about this situation and I would like to resolve this.”
Taking this approach turns your conversation from accusatory to collaborative. You and your partner are confronting the problem; you are not just criticizing your partner. Instead, you are inviting them to participate in problem solving together. (Related Article: Marriage Counseling- How to Build Trust). I’ve heard it said that you should aim to approach things as you and your partner vs. the problem, instead of you vs. your partner, and this is a great way to do that. (Related article: Promoting Partnership in Your Marriage).
Relationship Counseling for Preventative Maintenance
It’s important to note that relationship counseling can also be a great place to perform preventative maintenance in your relationship. In couples therapy, you can work with your therapist to confront major issues in your relationship. But, you can also work on the little things that build your trust in each other and reinforce your bond to withstand the challenges that you will confront together.
Ready to get started? Schedule relationship counseling with us today in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork.
Written by Lauren Adkins