By Matt Wheeler, MAPC, LAC
Do you ever ask yourself why you and your partner are always fighting? Or why you always feel attacked by him or her? Why does it feels like you haven’t truly talked in a very long time? You aren’t alone! This brief article will explain a why we need to learn to lean into the conflicts to draw closer together.
I’ve been working with couples and providing marriage counseling in Mesa Arizona for several years. I use the clinically proven, most effective, counseling for couples in distress, to help them. It’s called emotionally focused couples therapy, or EFT.
I’ve observed that conflict in life is inevitable. Conflict can be good because it points to where we are not meeting eachothers emotional needs. Learning to properly handle conflict allows us to feel safer with each other. People who we are most vulnerable with, however have the greatest ability to wound us because of that closeness. The intense closeness is gained because we trust the other person with the emotionally soft parts of ourselves. When we bump up against or expose the sensitive parts of our loved one, a conflict or fight can occur. Here are a few tools, that you can use, that will help you to maintain closeness and can even get you closer than before.
First, learn to PAUSE. You know the feeling, the start of the argument or fight. You feel the heat rise and you wonder what is happening. Why are they so upset? Why did they just throw that emotional dagger at me? They just won't let that stupid mistake go? They just shut down and won't talk to me, for no reason? In this moment you must learn to stop and PAUSE! Don't shut down or run away or fight back. Instead pause and ask yourself a few questions. What are they feeling right now? Sadness? Anger? Hopeless? Fear? Ask yourself what you would need, to feel loved, if you felt the way they do right now.
Second, stay away from specific issues or as we call it: AVOID CONTENT. I tell all the couples that I am meeting with, as a therapist in Mesa AZ for marriage counseling, learn to stay out of the content. It is really easy to get lost in the argument of them “being on the cell phone too much” and you feeling ignored. Or, they are not “being intimate” as much as you want to be. But it's not really about that issue that is currently bothering you. It's about issues that are emotionally much deeper, like not feeling needed, important, or securely attached. Everyone wants to feel loved, safe, and secure. We may not know how to express it, or even realize it is happening, so we instead let surface content set us off.
Pause, and ask the other person what is happening for them. Try to understand the ”why” for them. Don't get defensive and try to explain your position. That will make the other person feel like they aren't heard or understood. In this moment, see it as a perfect opportunity to be there for them or to help them feel safe with you. Find out as much as you can about what is going on emotionally for them and for yourself. What is the real emotional need and how can you fill it for both of you? This will create the bonds that are deeply desired by both of you and create a lasting feeling of security.
Third, ATTUNE and RESPOND to their needs. Once you have really learned to listen and hear what is happening underneath emotionally it is time to tune yourself in and respond appropriately. When they say they want you to do the dishes more you might say, "I am happy to do the dishes, but it's more than just the dishes right? You don't feel like I am around enough, is that right? Because I feel the same way. I really wish it were easier to be here too. You deserve that and so do I. I look forward to us having more time together. I need you in my life and you are important to me." Once you have made the argument about the dishes or football or the latest “content” issue, then you have lost the opportunity to create the emotional bond you both need. You must understand, and meet, the emotional needs of the other person to be able to strengthen the bond of your relationship.
Your relationship is about connection and meeting emotional needs. You both have these deep emotional needs. Learning and understanding how to meet them will allow a strengthening and deepening of the bond that you share. If you get stuck in your negative cycles, talking about content issues, you will feel exhausted and alone. Most likely they will too.
Conflict is inevitable, but not necessarily bad, and can be used to grow stronger and closer together. While working with couples in marriage counseling in Mesa AZ, the counselors at Family Strategies focus on this method of strengthening the emotional bonds in a relationship. Don’t give up! I’ve seen many conflicted or non-communicating couples restore the emotional bonds in their relationships. You can learn to do it too!
If you’d like a free 15-minute consultation about your personal needs, please give me a call. I would love to talk with you. Also visit our website for more information about our emotionally focused marriage counseling or EFT services in Mesa AZ: (480) 668-8301.