For Better, For Worse
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me emotions are all over the place in these uncertain times. Some people are not comfortable expressing their feelings and others do not even know what they are feeling. It is true that change is an inevitable part of life but sometimes we are not ready for a sudden change.
I think it takes a lot of work to be flexible in difficult times, but it is worth learning so we can “bend under pressure and not break”. Conflicts that happened before covid are just magnified now. Where is the money going to come from? I can’t stand to work from home one more day! We are always together; I have no personal space!! How come I’m worried but you’re not?
How do we manage conflict?
Let’s face it – conflict is inevitable. Dr. Gottman, a marriage therapist, states that in healthy relationships the approach to conflict is “gentle”. When something bothers one person, the other will soften the way they bring up that topic. If it does become negative, they will move toward compromise or at least find a safe space allowing the differences to exist. What has always amazed me is that Dr. Gottman has found that about 70% of conflict in relationships is ongoing. It has no resolution because it is based on differences in personalities and needs. Couples can either learn to talk about it and find some common ground or become stuck in their differences.
With covid each person may have different reactions because they: a) experience fear differently, b) each cope with the unknown differently, c) or past experiences affect how each respond today. In order to deal with these differences couples need to understand where the other is coming from and this takes time.
Turn Towards each Other
The key in understanding your spouse is to make him/her feel safe about sharing how they deal with the unknown (or even share how they don’t know how they deal with the unknown). Dr. Gottman says there is a request in every complaint, the trick is to find the request in your partner’s complaint. Can you share what your request is in place of the complaint? It is true that pain is a part of everyone’s life. What have you learned from uncertainty in your life? Can you share it with your spouse? Take time to recognize your partners struggles and kindly respond.
If you would like to read more about the Center and its approach to marriage therapy, please click on the link.
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