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Getting Unstuck – Moving Forward and Resolving Your Disagreements Together…

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years. That is what makes a marriage last. – Simone Signoret

Many of my clients come to couples counseling because they feel that they are constantly bickering and have difficulty solving their problems on their own. Often they feel that they are not making any progress and are having the same disagreements over and over again. Most couples spend a great deal of time trying to decide which partner is to blame for the issue(s) at hand which can make things escalate even more (and the chance of the issue(s) being solved less likely!) Several times per week, when a small event triggers either partner, they repeat the same old argument…feeling more and more stuck.

It’s important to focus on solving your problems together as a couple…or problems will remain unsolved and continue to resurface again and again. When new problems are added to the old problems, things can start to feel overwhelming for everyone involved. One couple told me that they felt trapped by a mountain of problems, unable to figure out how to keep these issues from continuing to build up. They were feeling resentful and disconnected…and in need of some support.

In order to begin the process of successfully negotiating with your partner, remember the importance of avoiding blame statements. You can learn more about this subject in some of my previous blog posts here:

http://www.synergeticpsychotherapy.com/2012/03/19/how-to-communicate-effectively-with-your-partner-ditch-the-blame-game/

http://www.synergeticpsychotherapy.com/2011/11/06/the-blame-game/

It’s also important that both partners feel that they are being heard and understood. Try to remember to appreciate and care for your partner, despite the fact that you might be entrenched in trying to solve a difficult or painful issue. Try to collaboratively think of a solution which might work nicely for both of you. You could say something like this: “We both seem to want different things in this situation. What do you think we could each propose which might satisfy both of our wants/needs to some degree? Can we think of a solution which will make both of us feel better?”

Remember that you can always try a solution for short period of time (almost like a trial test – for a short period of time – a month perhaps) and if it doesn’t work for both partners, you can go back to the drawing board. At least negotiating a temporary solution can feel like a collaborative step in the right direction (or any direction!).

This can help end a cycle of blame and feeling stuck.

I tell my clients that it is more important to collaboratively reach a solution which than to continue blaming each other for all of the problems at hand. Sometimes this is hard work…and sometimes the solutions which are reached are not 100% satisfying (often they contain some degree of compromise). I have had my clients tell me that they feel they have not gotten exactly what they wanted, but that this was okay, because the problem was no longer another issue being “swept under the rug.” At least it was dealt with and could be put to rest. In my experience, continuing to blame your partner can feel good – but it ultimately leads to a dead end (and more pain).

When working with couples feeling overwhelmed with conflict and unsolved problems, I start off with the smaller things to help them master the process of collaboration and problem solving. By using this approach, many of my clients are able to create solutions for problems which have resurfaced over and over again.

 

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