Conflict is a normal and necessary part of being in a relationship. However, for many, conflict can be painful, stressful, and considered a destructive process that does more damage than good. Most people in a relationship can recall an incident where words got heated, feeling ran high, and we did or said some things that were highly charged. Most could easily remember being on the receiving end too, wondering who this person was standing in front of them; their so-called ‘partner’. Tragically, after a series of these ‘blow-ups’, or maybe even from just one that hit really deep, couples begin to question their partners, as well as the viability of the relationship. However, this is often a misjudgement that can lead to a premature or unnecessary break-up. In situations like these, the first step couples would benefit from is focusing upon their communication, as a process of moving from misunderstanding to resolve, often developed and worked through in relationship counselling.
People don’t necessarily start a heated conflict because they enjoy the trouble, despite it feeling like that sometimes. Rather, destructive conflicts partly arise because those involved can’t adequately express what they need, and what they are feeling. Most of the time, people struggle to understand and pin down what they are going through at the moment, let alone being able to put it into words to communicate with their partner. On the receiving side, partners often get confused about why certain things are being raised as an issue. Or worse, they hear their partner’s poor attempts at communicating as an attack; in which they naturally become defensive, and most likely fire back with some harsh words of their own. This here is the beginning of what I call the ‘merry-go-round of destruction’: a circular back and forth of “I’m right, you’re wrong” statements that leave each partner feeling attacked and misunderstood; with no sense of resolve or connection.
Unfortunately, most couples trapped on this ‘merry-go-round of destruction’ don’t realize there is another way to deal with conflict. Actually, most struggle to consider that there is a healthy form of conflict at all. But there is. Healthy conflict is an important part of healthy relationships. It is constructive, rather than destructive, motivating, rather than discouraging, and ultimately, a force of development and connection. So, a healthy relationship is not a place where partners hold onto their feeling and thoughts; or bury them as to not make a fuss. Or, a place where thoughts and feelings are buried because of embarrassment, shame, or because of the pain associated with them. Rather, moving into a healthy relational space is about being completely honest with our feelings and thoughts, and responsibly offering them into our relationship in ways that help our partner understand our experience. This type of communication is owned, where you are being transparent about how you feel, without framing it as another’s fault, or as a right or wrong. When done correctly, it allows others to hear your concerns from a place of understanding, rather than as an attack. And from this space, healing can begin.
Learning how to communicate and do conflict in this healthy way may feel near impossible for those stuck in a destructive conflict cycle. However, within the setting of a non-judgment counselling relationship, most couples find results, even after the first few sessions. Importantly, you can’t expect to be able to develop healthy communication alone; otherwise, you would have happened by now. In this way, it’s not you or your partner’s fault. But, through relationship counselling, these communicative skills can be developed relatively quickly, restoring a sense of faith in the relationship, and the belief that your issues can be resolved.
As a PACFA register counsellor and psychotherapist, I often inform couples new to relationship counselling that once healthy communication strategies have been established, you and your partner are then in a strong and secure position to work through issues; to then begin questioning the status of the relationship. In this space, couples can confidently and amicably decide if the relationship is right for them. Most of the time, couples come to realize that the lack of communication skills within the relationship was compound all the other concerns, and with their newly developed ‘working through conflict’ skills, they come to remember that the relationship is actually a secure force after all.
Do not let yourself get stuck on a ‘merry-go-round of destruction’. Open yourselves to marriage counselling, couples counselling or relationship counselling so that you can go through this point of your life with a clear head and therefore make decisions wisely.
If you are looking for relationship counselling in Perth, get in touch with Chad Monger on 0413 818 775 or visit our contact page for more details. Chad Monger has worked with couples in private practice since 2011. While communication is a central tenet of relationship counselling, every couple presents unique contributing factors that adds to their current situation.