When you have a conflict with your partner you may refer to it as a fight. We don’t mean fisticuffs; we mean a verbal fight. Other times we say we had an argument. Do they mean the same thing or are they different? They are different. In a fight someone has to win. In an argument, there is no goal to win, the goal is for both parties to listen.
HOW TO AVOID FIGHTING
First, acknowledge that there is a conflict and embrace it. Conflicts are not negative; in fact, they are opportunities to improve relationships. If they get ignored, resentment can poison the relationship. See it as an opportunity for both of you to resolve something. After practicing as a couple, you will look forward to resolving issues while building trust in one another. Define the issue and the outcome you want. Set a specific time to discuss. Sometimes it is best to let things cool down. Later in the day is best, you don’t want these issues to go unresolved overnight. These are only three tips. If you want more, check out 13 Rules for Fair and Healthy Fighting in Relationships.
HOW TO ARGUE IN A RELATIONSHIP
Conflicts are healthy, embrace them and look forward to resolving them. The key for both sides is listening. When you are both actively listening, it doesn’t feel like a fight—because it stops being a fight if both parties are listening. Remember, there are issues on both sides that need to be resolved. Blame is not the goal. Sure, there may be some responsibility on either or both sides—but that is very different from blame. Seek opportunities to accept responsibility and acknowledge your role.
BE MINDFUL OF THE MOMENT
Mindful Healing is more than Therapy and Counseling. We are about helping you be mindful in every area in your life. When you are mindful, you feel a sense of freedom from being in a judgmental state. It is an awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences from moment to moment. Mindfulness is for everyone and a gift you can give yourself.
If you live in Portland or the Portland area and want help with
Technically there is no “too soon” for Couples’ Therapy. There are many cases when couples begin therapy as early as 6 months or sooner. In fact, millennials are opting for couples’ therapy much sooner than their counterparts a generation ago. The biggest factor in this new trend is a better understanding of what couples’ therapy is.
HELP YOUR RELATIONSHIP BEFORE IT NEEDS “SAVING”
There used to be the notion that couples’ therapy was an after-the-fact solution, like repairing or saving a relationship after an affair. Couples’ therapy is much more than that, it involves learning communication skills, coping styles, personal goals, problem solving, and values. Couples can experience many challenges at any stage in a relationship. Some of the most common problems include sex, finances, differences in how much free time should be spent together, differences in standards of cleanliness, jealousy, addictions, and family issues. Therapy can provide a safe and fair way for couples to navigate these issues. These are also tools that can last through the future of the relationship, too.
ARE UNHEALTHY CONFLICTS IN A RELATIONSHIP A RED FLAG?
Conflicts, and fighting early in a relationship, do not determine if you are a good match or not. It simply means that there is a challenge in problem solving, communicating, or some other dynamic. These are skills that can be developed and refined. Some of the biggest struggles in communication that tend to end relationships include personal criticism (rather criticizing individual acts/behaviors), contempt, defensiveness, reactivity, lack of relationship repair, and disconnection/stonewalling behavior.
The biggest red flags when it comes to conflict are signs of abusive behavior, which can be emotional, physical, sexual or financial. Common examples of emotional abuse include yelling, manipulation, name-calling, shaming, humiliation, constant criticism, threats (to you or themselves), ultimatums, discouraging social time with other people, discouraging personal empowerment (denying right to work, school…etc.), withholding affection, and invasion of privacy. Common physical abuses include hitting, spitting, choking, any bodily harm, threats, intimidating postures/gestures, physical restraint, or denying your right to leave a place. Common sexual abuses include unwanted touching/fondling, rape, forced uncomfortable sexual scenarios, forced painful sex, non-consensual sex, derogatory name-calling, and withholding sex as an ultimatum. If you think you are in an abusive relationship and feel unsafe or cannot get out, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you identify as a female, a great local resource here in Portland, OR is the Gateway Center.
CAN COUPLES’ THERAPY FIX ALL RELATIONSHIPS?
No. Couples therapy can do many things. It can clarify concerns, goals, and values. It helps couples learn healthier methods to interact more productively. It provides a safe and fair way for couples to be vulnerable and express themselves. It can also help you figure out how to solve your problems. Many times, these changes create healthy, growth-oriented relationships. But couples’ therapy cannot and should not fix all relationships. Sometimes people are healthier as friends, or not having a relationship at all. The goal of couples’ counseling is not necessarily to save a relationship, but to create a space for the people in a relationship to get to a healthier space and create a healthy values-based relationship as part of that interaction, whatever that looks like.
COUPLES THERAPY IS GOOD FOR HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS, TOO
The biggest trend in healthcare is prevention. And really—it is not that new of a concept. You brush your teeth to prevent cavities. You watch your cholesterol to prevent heart disease. So on and so on. Couples’ therapy can give your relationship the best foundation possible. You can have tools coming out of the gate and prevent miscommunication from the beginning.
DO I NEED INSURANCE TO SEE A THERAPIST?
No. In fact, at Mindful Healing Portland LLC., we accept clients on a sliding scale. We are currently accepting clients for our sliding scale rates.
If you live in Portland or the Portland area and want information or are in need of Couples’ Therapy,
Portland, Oregon has a divorce rate of 12.5%, which is nearly 2% higher than the national average. When you isolate for millennials, Portland, Oregon ranks number 1 in both divorces per population and divorces per married. Unfortunately, this makes Portland, Oregon the divorce capital for millennials.
When researchers dug further into the reason for these millennial divorce statistics, it appears that the reason has less to do with the environment and more to do with the age at which couples marry. Couples in Portland, Oregon tend to marry younger than in other cities.
So, what are the primary reasons couples struggle? What tools are younger couples missing that older couples seem to have? And how can a therapist help? Good questions. Let’s tackle them one by one.
COMMON CHALLENGES COUPLE HAVE
There are multiple reasons why a couple seeks therapy. Most of them can be broken into one of three categories; breach of trust, frequent conflicts, and general feeling of detachment. Below are three common reasons why couples seek counseling and how Couples’ Counseling can help.
BREACH OF TRUST
Breach of trust is not always from infidelity or an affair. Trust is a major foundation in any relationship, and it can be weakened by lies and deceptions about finances and emotions, too. It’s hard to have a healthy relationship when we feel betrayed and it can be challenging to heal and move forward. Counseling provides a safe space for both parties to express their vulnerabilities, concerns, and move forward in a constructive way.
UNHEALTHY CONFLICTS (OR CONFLICT AVOIDANCE) GAIN IN FREQUENCY OR INTENSITY
Conflict is inevitable in any relationship. Relationships involve multiple people who have different perceptions about the world and themselves, with each person having different needs and desires. On top of that, as humans, we’re always changing. Conflict is natural, and necessary, for relationships to evolve. Healthy conflict leads to problem-solving and growth. Unhealthy conflict is often filled with contention, agitation, and leads towards distancing.
There are all sorts of unhealthy ways of dealing with conflict; for some conflict looks like full-blown shouting, others it can be violent, and with others it comes in snide remarks or passive-aggressive comments. Conflicts don’t always have to be direct or aggressive, they can internalize without the other partner even knowing it.
Another unhealthy conflict pattern can be avoidance. Often, the desire to avoid conflict causes people to avoid addressing their problems, and getting their needs met. This coping behavior tends to leave problems unsolved and builds resentment.
It can be concerning when these unhealthy conflict patterns or avoidance patterns increase in their frequency, intensity, or duration day-to-day, week-to-week. New or sudden conflicts, agitation, or irritation can be symptoms of unresolved challenges. Counseling can help identify the root of the conflict and teach coping mechanisms to manage conflict in a healthy way that lead towards growth.
Typically, in healthy relationships we feel open and connected with our partners, and in new relationships this is often the case and feels wonderful. Over time, this may change, and when our partner feels closed-off, withdrawn, or retreats inside their own head, it tends not to feel so good. Typically, we respond to our partner’s disconnecting from us by disconnecting ourselves, creating a major gap in the relationship. Sometimes this can be accepted as a new norm, or lead to resentment, hostility, or ending a relationship. Therapy can help with identifying barriers to openness, connectivity and work with you as a couple to create solutions.
THE GOOD NEWS
While we stated that millennials have the highest divorce rate, they are also adopting couples’ therapy as a solution sooner than earlier generations. In fact, a university study about couples’ therapy reports 51% of millennial couples are likely to seek out some kind of relationship counseling.
DO I NEED INSURANCE TO SEE A THERAPIST?
No. In fact, at Mindful Healing Portland LLC we accept clients on a sliding scale. We are currently accepting clients for our sliding scale rates.
If you’re in an intimate relationship, fights and conflict are bound to happen. After all, you’re different people with different experiences, expectations, drives, perceptions, and desires. Just because you are going to have a fight with your partner doesn’t mean it is a bad thing. The following guidelines are for navigating conflict in a healthy way.
Embrace conflict: Conflict is normal and healthy. Differences between you mean that there is room for each of you to learn, grow, and further develop your relationship. Avoidance of conflict tends to breed fear, resentment, worry, and disengagement.
Define the issue at hand: Before you begin you may want to know “what exactly is bothering me? What do I want to express?” Set your goals, what do you want to be the outcome of the discussion? It’s not about who will win or lose, or who is right or who is wrong, but creating a workable solution that resolves the problem at hand, or moves the relationship in the direction you would like it to go. Remember your partner is your friend and you want to be their friend.
Set a time for discussion in a reasonable time line.
Use I/you statements that state the facts and your reactions. Avoid judgmental statements, blaming, shoulds, or all-or-nothing blanket statements. For example, “You make me angry when you don’t clean up. You should just clean up after yourself. You’re so irresponsible.” In this sentence, the other person is blamed for emotions, a “should” indicates whatever really happened is wrong, and the statement of irresponsibility is a judgment. Instead a statement like, “I see dirty dishes there on the coffee table. When I see a mess in the house it really makes me feel frustrated. I would appreciate it if you would clear the dishes after you finish using them.” communicates the specific problem, reactions, and desires.
Actively listen to your partner. Active listening means giving your partner 100% of your attention, no multitasking, turning away, going into a shell, or interrupting. Validate feelings, reflect what you’ve heard to make sure you understand what’s being communicated. Try to adopt an attitude of open curiosity, even if your reaction is initially a defensive one. Something is going on in each of your worlds and it’s important for your relationship to understand. Try to take your partner’s viewpoint, separate from your own.
Invite the other person to share their point of view after you’ve finished speaking. Use active listening skills, and demonstrate genuine interest and curiosity. Validate feelings. Try to take your partner’s viewpoint separate from your own.
Speak with calm, assertive awareness. When we yell, or shout, and make intimidating gestures, we are less likely to be heard, and more likely to create a defensive reaction in our partners. Your partner will be more likely to focus on the delivery of the message rather than the content when you yell. When we speak too softly, with slumped posture, or a withdrawn demeanor we are more likely to be dismissed. When you speak calmly, with relaxed body language, and assert your experience, you are more likely to be positively received and heard.
Stop and use time-outs when necessary. If you feel that the discussion is getting too heated, waiting until you feel calmer is just fine. 20 minute breaks can be very helpful. Having conversations while going for a walk, or in a serene place may also be helpful, rather than having a debate at home.
Propose specific solutions, invite your partner to propose solutions as well. Be willing to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each proposal, and be willing to compromise, though do not be willing to break your hard boundaries.
Avoid digging up the past, keeping score, or stockpiling events. If an issue has been buried and resolved, leave it in the past and don’t dig up the grave to only have to bury it again. Focus on the issue at hand and how you both can resolve the issue going forward. If it is an ongoing issue, stick to the specifics, and how you can create resolution from there. Keeping score creates a power differential in the relationship and creates a tit-for-tat atmosphere that tends not to be workable. When we stockpile events they tend to breed resentment. It is also is difficult to create resolutions when we’re not focused on one issue at a time.
Avoid personal attacks/low blows. When we’re intimate with our partner, we know exactly what to say if we really want to hurt them, bringing up old insecurities or wounds. This doesn’t serve to resolve conflict, only to create more hurt than is already being experienced.
Create your own Ground Rules for Fair Fighting.
After making a resolution, give yourself a space to process the emotions you’ve experienced. Let go of what you can, repair what needs to be repaired, and engage as friends/lovers to the best of your ability. This can be done by making silly faces, a hug, kiss, fun date night. Whatever it is that helps you both get back to baseline.
DO I NEED INSURANCE TO SEE A THERAPIST?
No. In fact, at Mindful Healing we accept clients on a sliding scale. We are currently accepting clients for our sliding scale rates.