Real Reasons Behind Relationship Conflict
To love and be loved is a basic human need. Most of us find love in the relationship we have with our spouse or life partner. This relationship is hugely important to maintain our physical, emotional health and well-being. Within this close bond is where we find comfort, safety, security and a soft place to fall. Close bonds add meaning to our lives and let us know we belong.
But maintaining a close and intimate relationship can be hard. Most couples, experience disagreement or conflict. In itself, conflict is not uncommon nor necessarily problematic. It is how we understand these conflicts, resolve and heal them, which writes the history of our relationship and life together.
Couples’ arguments cover many issues: children, work/life balance, extended family and sometimes complex situations and choices. Regardless of the topic, beneath these fights lie unasked questions that long for loving and reassuring answers. These questions beneath each argument can be put into three categories – A, R and E.
A is for accessible. Are you there for me when I need you?
R is for responsive. Will you respond to me when I call?
E is for emotional presence. Will you be emotionally present and available when I need you?
When a partner is unable to ask these questions and have them answered in ways that are reassuring and loving, then that partner falls into staying with the topic of argument. Even if this particular argument is resolved, feelings of dissatisfaction, of one partner feeling ignored and the other feeling criticised and inadequate, will remain and return with the next conflict or argument. These patterns of interactions then become an ongoing struggle between the couple.
Couples may end up with situations such as:
• fighting about the same issue over and over again with little or no resolution
• feeling unheard and not understood
• communication problems, as if each of you are speaking a different language
• too much time spent on the phone, computer or other distractions
• emotional distance and lack of affection or closeness
• sexual problems - dissatisfaction with sex or cessation of sexual activity
• loss of trust or a lack of trust
• feeling constantly criticised and nagged, as if you’re never good enough
• feeling that you don’t matter to your partner – feeling unseen, unheard and unloved
• feeling tempted to stray outside your marriage
• wondering if you should separate but feeling confused about what is the best decision
Couples in relationship distress usually respond in one of two ways:
1) By fighting, getting angry, criticising, complaining or making demands.
2) By withdrawing, hiding, defending or avoiding.
These responses are really attempts to draw your partner back in emotionally, to preserve the relationship. But they only act to drive you further apart.
At the core of every argument and conflict, each person is essentially asking: “Can I depend on you?”, “Do I matter to you?”, “Am I adequate for you? “Am I enough for you?” and “Will you be emotionally available to me?” If the answer is “No,” couples begin to disconnect.
To explore these kinds of conflicts more fully, read more under Couples Counselling on this website.
Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) for Relationships
Thankfully, there are proven therapeutic methods to help couples work through their struggles and patterns of interactions, and to understand what is really going on beneath the conflict and build close intimate bonds that last.
Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) is an effective and proven therapy based on 20 years of empirical research. EFT has a higher success rate than any other therapeutic model for Couples and Marriage Therapy. 90% of couples show significant improvements and in fact, research shows that it is the only therapy model for couples that has really long-lasting benefits.
Some of the benefits of EFT are:
• identify the patterns of blame in your relationship
• understand what the fights are truly about
• experience more intimacy and better sex
• learn to appreciate your own and your partner's vulnerability
• learn to be truly emotionally open and available to each other
• feel that you are special and important to your partner
• ask for what you need in ways that work and foster closeness rather than drive you apart
• find new ways to be together that feel safe, secure and that you belong
Read more about the Emotion Focused Therapy on my website. In addition, the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT) provides even more detail on this form of therapy.
Couples typically experience years of ongoing problems and repetitive relationship conflict before seeking counselling. The longer you wait, the greater your distress.
Don’t lose your relationship. Learn to fight for it in a way which works, by calling for help from an experienced relationship counsellor. For a confidential discussion of your relationship conflict and needs, please call 0400 999 918.