by Darren & Jeanette Radley
You always think you’re right and I always end up being the loser in these arguments!”
“If you hadn’t spent all that money then we wouldn’t be in this mess right now!”
A common exchange seen in couple counselling is the ‘right fight’ or ‘blame game’ where neither partner is listening and instead a point of view fight develops. One partner is pitted against the other to prove their opinion makes the most sense and will keep driving it home like a jackhammer until the other partner either gets it or gives up.
What is fundamentally missing in this exchange is validation and personal responsibility. This is acknowledgement of the other person’s feelings or opinion in a safe and respectful environment, and accepting you can only control and manage your own reactions/behaviours, not your partners. The goal is to create emotional safety. Conflict avoidance can also be as problematic as overt conflict. Again, validation and personal responsibility are absent. Each partner may have tried to raise concerns but was quickly shut down resulting in further withdrawal and blame their partner for their own withdrawal.
Research suggests couples who deal with issues as they arise fare better than couples who are conflict avoidant or store up their issues until they surface in an angry explosion. Good communication is the most important tool in the relationship toolbox. It is important to take personal responsibility for managing life’s stressors and find healthy ways to de-stress such as exercise and socialising. This will decrease the tension in the home.
Another useful strategy is learning how to self-soothe and how to soothe others. One way to do this is to take in a few deep breaths and say some calming, soothing words to yourself or your partner. If necessary, take time out and agree to discuss the issue later when you are both calmer and have collected your thoughts. Conflict is a normal part of any relationship and learning how to deal with conflict in a healthy way is key to relationship longevity. ■
Darren Radley, Relationship Counsellor & Sex Therapist
Jeanette Radley, Psychotherapist/ Counsellor & Mediator
The EPICentre at 160 New Town Road, New Town.
P: 6228 5535