Relationship conflict spiral

Very often couples experience that situation when in the heat of the argument they keep repeating the same phrases and they can’t talk about the real problem, just repeating their own offenses and the other’s faults. How can we break this spiral?

After a while the pink cloud is gone in a relationship and that time appears when not everything is nice and loveable in a our partner. We are able to see our partner’s shortcomings and also we don’t pay that much attention to the style how we express our problems. To communicate our needs or desires is not a problem by itself but how we do it is crucial.

Conflict spiral

There are 4 typical ways how we obviate negative stress in a conflict. I’m sharing with you and explaining why it could have developed in this way and how you can react to it effectively, to improve the relationship instead of damage it.

  1. The blamer

“I don’t want to believe you can’t manage your time better!” There are people who react to the own negative emotional frustration with blaming attitude, blaming others. This person believes the other is the responsible for it, shifts the responsibility on the partner, and becomes angry what he/she works off on the partner. It doesn’t make the partner feeling better obviously and switching on a painful button and rolling over the conflict.

Why do we blame others instead of looking for our own responsibility for our negative state? It happens mainly in those families where the members learnt that expressing pain or negative feelings is not allowed because it was punished, denied, ignored or minimized. The child learnt that: don’t show your vulnerability because they will not understand it anyway.

How can we react effectively to offenses from a blaming partner? Help the partner to express what caused the negative feelings, let him/her talk about the negative feeling itself and encouraging to find the own role in the situation instead of blaming others or highlighting others’ faults. Pointing the finger, never helps.

  1. The conciliator

“No problem, it can happen!” This attitude can result stuck conflicts if someone very often react to uncomfortable situations with attempting to calm the partner with not expressing own needs. This person is so much afraid of the possibility of hurting the partner (can happen) and to avoid that withdrawing instead of taking confrontation.

The background of this attitude usually is to express anger openly was not acceptable in the origin family. Children try to be adaptive so they learn to hide negative emotions even if this kind of coping style is not healthy at all.

If our partner is this type try to encourage him/her to express negative feelings and to phrase needs with more confidence.

  1. Mechanical

“This is not logical!” Also a typical conflict management strategy is to handle conflicts without emotions just with rational logical mindset. In this case one side tries to handle own frustration with lack of information and logical arguments which can be very annoying to the partner, especially if the partner is very emotional. I used to say, emotions are on ice, keeping the strong, often unhealthy emotional control.

The dominant feeling in the background of this strategy is fear. Fear of sharing feelings which can make the person vulnerable in front of another. Often even their voice becomes cold, rigid and the communication is very objective which can often cause a rejection feeling in the partner. The experience of listening and understanding of emotions was missing in their origin family. They missed deep emotional closeness and in setting up intimacy they struggle with lack of confidence.

If we use this strategy, the solution is to try to be (more) empathic, putting ourselves into the partner’s shoes and trying to see and understand his/her point of view and discuss if our perception is correct or not.

If your partner uses this strategy, try to express how your emotions are important as well to you not just the facts and try to express what you feel with using examples.

  1. Changing the conversation

“If you knew how the new neighbour is so annoying!” People who change the conversation when they experience emotional distress sometimes change the discussion with using irrelevant topics. They keep a big distance from their own emotions and they have difficulties to attune to others that’s why it’s difficult to establish emotional intimacy with them.

 Who uses this strategy physically experiences anxiety, can show nervous or panicking symptoms. The feelings behind are loneliness and incompetency what this person can’t deal with. In a situation with emotional pressure they try to change the topic and the conversation or using manipulation, including using several destructive tactics, like aggression or making the partner to feel guilty.

Worth to assure the partner (who uses this strategy) that she/he is safe with us, problems can be discussed and solved together. Instead of using manipulative techniques, we can ask to use opened expression of needs because this way of solution can improve the intimacy and the feeling of being an ally, exactly what our partner misses and running away from.

How can we stop the conflict spiral?

When we are able to recognize our own and our partner’s typical reactions and able to understand the emotional motivation in the background, we can find solutions to set up constructive discussions in a conflict. We can intensify the trust and the relationship, also we can improve our belief, that we are able to maintain a working relationship with healthy and constructive dynamics.

Very important to recognize and understand first our own conflict management techniques in the beginning of the relationship. Love is a connecting link, a helping force to make clear misunderstandings or destructively used conflict management techniques and it’s better to do it before the passionate love is gone and having “grey” everyday life.

Worth to choose the understanding way what with we know and accept our partner’s background motivations. Help our partner to understand his/her own reaction to anger, anxiety, pain and fear. Also important to make our partner to know and understand how it influences us, how we feel. With this technique the emotional closeness improves. The way out from conflict spiral is; real understanding, acceptance and intimacy.

Picture: http://www.rnib.org.uk

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