Managing Relationship Problems
Each one of us has our own way to cope with stress in our relationships. When couples disagree, the goal is to be able to listen and respond to each other so that you can work together to resolve the problem. At times, though, couples can get caught up in stress styles that aren’t helpful.
For example, when one partner tends to avoid conflict and the other is more aggressive the relationship may become unbalanced. The quieter, conflict-avoidant partner will soon find that their needs are being neglected and will begin to feel dissatisfied while the more aggressive partner may not even suspect the depth of unhappiness that their partner is experiencing.
This is what happened to Jack and Mary. Mary was very comfortable asking Jack for what she needed in the relationship. In fact, because she grew up the oldest of three children, she sometimes felt entitled to insisting on having things her way. Jack sometimes wasn’t sure what he needed and had trouble expressing what he wanted from Mary. In addition, Jack had learned growing up that his “job” in a relationship was to “take care” of his partner even at the expense of his own needs. As a result, when Jack finally realized that his needs weren’t being considered, he was resentful and angry. Mary was surprised because she had assumed that the relationship was fine since Jack wasn’t asking for anything and when he did occasionally ask he would quickly acquiesce to Mary.
Recognizing your own style of managing relationship stress and becoming empathetic toward your partner’s style can help you as a couple approach each other with more open hearts. I have even offered a “money back guarantee” to couples that when they practice managing their stress styles, the relationship will improve.
The first step is identifying your own style. When you sense a disagreement in the air do you:
*Become aggressive, believing that the “best defense is a good offense”?
*Move quickly to a “win – lose” perspective?
*Blame your partner?
*Avoid the conflict at all costs?
*Agree with your partner to avoid conflict?
*Change the subject?
Using any one of these negative stress styles can quickly either escalate your conversation or end it prematurely, blocking any meaningful communication between you. The good news is that you are in charge of your own stress style. You can choose to respond to your partner instead of reacting. Next time you sense that you and your partner are heading into an old pattern of negative communication try these steps:
1. Remind yourself that you are in charge of your own stress style. Resolve to keep a respectful tone.
2. Be resilient in listening by focusing your energy on understanding what your partner is feeling. Ask your partner to share their concerns. You will have time to share your own concerns and feelings. Now is the time to listen deeply to your partner’s thoughts.
3. When your partner feels that you have understood him/her then take your turn to share your feelings and concerns as well.
Listening, feeling understood and knowing that you care about each other’s thoughts and feelings will build good will between you and help you to move onto solving the problem. Managing the negative stress style cycle is a good first step toward helping you feel that you and your partner are on the same team, not on opposing sides. When you can move on to solving the problem, your relationship wins.
Authors Details: Managing Relationship Problems – Wanda Sevey Web Site