Solving Problems without Arguing

problem solving

Solving Problems without Arguing

It’s no secret that arguments lead to breakups. And the best relationships split power equally among the two. That’s why learning how to fight right without hurting each other’s feelings, or taking one or another person’s power away are the secrets to an impenetrable relationship. But how do you solve problems without arguing? Fighting isn’t essential to couplehood.

Though disagreement is inevitable, getting angry or fighting is a choice.  Here are three steps culled from the book, Getting to Yes, that can eliminate arguing from your relationship, equalize power and make things run far more smoothly. This strategy also helps reconcile two parts in conflict inside an individual as well. So if you are suffering from inner conflicts try this strategy too. Generally speaking compromise is touted as the best way to solve issues. But if one person wants to live in Chicago and the other in Miami, settling in Nashville isn’t going to make anyone happy. It’s a lose-lose instead of a win-win. Compromise has its place but not in situations such as this. However a win-win solution leaves both parties satisfied.

The first step is to recognize the conflict. Say it’s a Friday night. One person wants to go out. The other wants to say in. The first step is to recognize that both parties are indeed in conflict. This sounds easy. But it isn’t always really. Sometimes one partner will go out only to make the other happy but harbor unseen resentment. Instead, both parties will voice that there is a conflict in preferences openly and honestly, without holding back. That doesn’t mean fighting. It merely means recognizing the issue. Next, instead of advocating for your position, trying to find both parties underlying concerns. One person feels that they aren’t spending enough time with their friends, while the other is exhausted from a particularly grinding week at work. Finally, the couple decides on something that will settle both parties underlying concerns. The couple decides to go out and visit with friends at happy hour. Then they decide to come home and relax. Or perhaps they have a nice dinner together, while one goes out and the other stays home. These two solutions are a win-win for each.

The solution has to fix each person’s concerns. That’s important. The couple also has to be patient and communicate clearly so that they can dig past what the person says they want to their actual concern. It’s important that each person find and then communicate their underlying concerns so that these can be fully addressed. For more advice read, Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury.

4 Warning Signs That Your Relationship Is in Trouble

trouble

4 Warning Signs That Your Relationship Is in Trouble

Most of the time people enter relationships with a feeling that everything has excellent potential.  They’re not anticipating an end to their love.  The truth is, that’s often the case.  Relationships do end.  Often, warning signs are missed, but they do exist.  John Gottman, Ph.D., is a leading psychologist in the area of marriage and relationships.  He has four warning signs and adjustments that can be made:

  1. Criticism - It’s not the same as complaining, when you’re attacking one particular problem or the behavior of your partner.  You’re actually attacking their character.  A criticism might include, “You are such a slob”.  A complaint, on the other hand, would sound more like, “I’m tired of picking up after you”.   You can’t say anything constructive when a person is criticizing, or, it would be more difficult.  If someone complains, it’s easier to address the concern.  To fix this, make it a point to complain and not criticize.  And, if your partner is guilty of the latter, have a discussion about it and see if they’ll commit to not criticizing.
  2. Contempt - This is really criticism, magnified.  When you’re attacking your partner as a person, it’s demeaning and insulting.  You’re looking down on them, possibly calling them names, mocking them and being sarcastic.  To fix this, increase your tolerance.  Learn to communicate with your partner and appreciate each other.  Couples therapy is often necessary for relationships involving contempt.
  3. Defensiveness - This is when you’re attacked and then attack in defense.  This typically involves playing the victim, ignoring your partner, making excuses and disagreeing.  To fix this, listen to the complaint and try to empathize.  Then, take responsibility, or some of it.  After truly listening and showing compassion, tell your side of the story.
  4. Stonewalling - Checking out of a conversation to protect oneself from being hurt is stonewalling.  A person will stop following the conversation or actually leave.  They may seem apathetic, but are actually overwhelmed.  To fix this, try to discuss the issue together and find out when the person stonewalling is becoming overwhelmed. Make plans to give space if needed and eventually come back to discussing the problem.  Identify these issues early on.  The longer they last, the more it hurts your relationship.  If you’re trying your best to fix things and there’s no cooperation, and situations are repeated, you might try counseling together. Also try reading the book, The Relationship Cure: A 5 Step Guide to Strengthening Your Marriage, Family, and Friendships by John Gottman, Ph.D.

Signs you May be Entering or are in a Bad Marriage

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Signs you May be Entering or are in a Bad Marriage

When you see a disaster is eminent, the best plan is to get out before it’s too late. After that, it’s all triage. Nowhere else is this truer than when entering into a bad marriage—the consequences of which can follow you for years. Sometimes we’re blinded by love. At other times, something arises that cannot be reconciled. Either way, when the divorce is final, we often look for easy things to blame. We feel confused, overwhelmed, hurt and angry. But usually there are many things that lead to the decline and dissolution of such a relationship. Enjoy love but keep on the lookout for important warning signs. You may be able to duck a bad situation or likely recognize when your relationship is heading south. Do you remember your first fight? Few couples do. Well, maybe some women do. In any case, lots of couples fight about the same things, money being the topmost issue, confirmed in several studies. But if you start fighting about money early on, say as you’re boarding the plane on the way to your honeymoon, the marriage could be in trouble. That’s according to research out of Kansas State University. That’s because arguments about money early on affected the marriage even years later. Fighting about money was the “top predictor for divorce” regardless of socio-economic status or income level.

If you got married by an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas at the spur of the moment, surprise–you might not make it. But if you dated for three years before deciding to get married, you have a 39% less likelihood of seeing the inside of a divorce court, according to researchers out of Emory University. Couples who dated for three years had far better odds than those who dated for less than a year. Are you both teetotalers? Or perhaps you both like to party until the wee hours. If you’re drinking habits diverge sharply, your relationship might soon too, so say University of Buffalo researchers. If one spouse drank heavily, the couple was more likely to get divorced. But the same results weren’t true when both partners tipped the glass often. Apparently, it’s the mismatch rather than the habit that causes strife.

Did you two talk about a prenup before marriage? If so, you are more than likely to keep your money when you two go your separate ways. That’s because the longevity of the marriage isn’t the utmost concern to both parties. Couples that don’t share a bank account are 145% more likely to divorce, says the National Center for Family and Marriage Research. The reason is financial generosity and sharing is conducive to marriage. It makes you a unit. Keeping things for yourself and separate is not, though of course we all need some individuality. Still, complete separateness denotes something. How much did you blow on the wedding? Some events seem to cost more than a mortgage nowadays. But one Emory University study found that the more you spend on the wedding, the less likely you will have staying power. That’s because spending more gave each elevated expectations for the marriage. When you aren’t ready for problems when they inevitably strike, there are no coping strategies set aside to deal with them. Those who coughed up $20,000 or more were 3.5 times more likely to divorce than those who spent $5,000-$10,000. Social networking sites have us all interconnected. They influence us more than we think. In fact, one study published in “Social Forces” Journal found that if a friend or neighbor got divorced, that person was 75% more likely to get divorced themselves. For ways to make you marriage strong whether entering into or already in the thick of it read, The Marriage Guide Book: How to Make Your Marriage Thrive by Vanessa Pagan.

Can a Fight Reignite your Sex Life?

Couple Lying In Bed

Can a Fight Reignite your Sex Life?

It’s a very old idea. Couples fight. All couples do. But then the energy they release, once they make up, leads to great “makeup sex.” But is it true? Is this a real phenomenon or is it all in our heads? New research is trying to put this question to bed. The first problem we must recognize is, after the honeymoon phase–when young couples are ravenous for one another, is over, couples’ sex lives can often become bland and routine. Some people call it simply “marital sex.” Disagreements can get in the way, fights about finances, raising the children and other concerns, and these issues follow the couple into the bedroom, sucking the life out of it. Most couples take fighting as just part of the routine. But certain fights or kinds of fighting can become baggage, getting in the way of sexual and emotional intimacy. What couples need to do, instead of being disconnected to one another, blowing up and having the occasional loving connection, is to think of their romantic life as distanced and separate altogether from their everyday life. A recent study of infidelity site Ashley Madison found that women go to the site to get sexual excitement, while still keeping their relationship intact. So learn how to compartmentalize the two worlds. Leave the fights at the bedroom door, and instead embrace the things that excite you both.

A lot of couples think they are just going to maintain a certain posture for the rest of their time together, if they are married, for the rest of their lives. A “this is as good as it gets” attitude resides. You don’t have to settle for a mediocre relationship. Psychological damage builds up as couples move along and disagreements and conflict inevitably arise. This has a direct influence over our sexual and emotional intimacy within our relationship. The emotional and physical state our body is in, “fight or flight,” is created with adrenaline. This is the absolute opposite of the status our body maintains when it is time to make love. When we are ready to make amore, oxytocin—the love neurotransmitter, and dopamine are released, the body relaxes and enters a state of “calm and cuddle.” The two states cannot coexist. It is either one or the other. The first thing you can do is establish how you fight. Do you take part in the “demand and withdraw” pattern? This is when a person shoves criticisms and complaints on their mate, hoping that the person will change. When these pile up, the person can’t leave them at the bedroom door, and sexual intimacy is lost. Usually as couples get older, this pattern worsens.  Texas Christian University found that this is “…the most common pattern of conflict in marriage or any committed established romantic relationship.”

One study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found that middle-aged fighting increased the risk of death from all causes significantly. Another study, out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, found that those couples who fought more often were more susceptible to depression. Those who had constant stress from their relationship were also more likely to get depressed. Nothing saps your love life like depression, be it yours or your partner’s. Some people say that the make-up sex is the best part of their relationship. Really, it’s just that you’ve made up and now the resurgence of those good feelings, the ones that should generally inhabit your relationship, has renewed emotional and sexual intimacy. So it isn’t the fighting itself, it’s being loving again that sparks sexual intimacy. Now one might ask what a couple can do to make things heat up again in the bedroom. John Gottman, a pioneering psychologist who spent his career studying couples, has shown through his research that loving kindness and generosity toward one another can increase intimacy, and give partners a fondness and love for each other, which can manifest itself into great physical and sexual intimacy. One recent study showed that the stronger the emotional intimacy between a couple, the better their sex life. Find ways to sustain intimacy and you can sustain your sex life. For ways to do that pick up a copy of, Emotional Intimacy 101: The Surefire Way to Great Romantic Relationships by Pierre F. Steenberg.

The Rules of Engagement for Fighting Fair

fightfair

The Rules of Engagement for Fighting Fair

Arguing in a relationship is eventual, even necessary. From fighting, boundaries are found, deep seeded issues are exposed and can be dealt with, and development and healing really have their roots in conflict. What breaks people up is fighting unfairly. You need to learn the rules of engagement for fighting fair. The first one is focus on the goal. In the heat of an argument all of a sudden lovers become adversaries who throw down their gauntlets and will do whatever it takes to win. But this mindset is poisonous for a relationship.

Instead, focus on tackling a problem cooperatively instead of competitively. If you are used to fighting a certain way explain to your partner before your next squabble that you don’t want to do this anymore. That you love them and don’t want to fight like this with them but want to find a way to work together instead. If they are yelling at you or goading you into a fight, don’t take the bait. Instead, walk away. Or tell them “I don’t want to do this with you.” Or “I hate it when we hurt each other.” That will stop them cold. Focus on the crux of the conflict. Do the two of you interpret the same set of events in different ways? Interpretation is everything.

If you think something is no big deal but your sweetie flips their lid, and you act like it’s no big deal instead of validating their feelings, you are essentially saying that they are no big deal, since they care about it. Then they will go on and on to prove to you why it’s important, and if you dig in on your side to protect your ego, whammy, you have a fight on your hands. Instead, try listening actively. Listen to what your lover says and repeat it back to them. See if you’ve got it right. It might sound silly at first. But if you can figure out how the two of you interpret something you can plan a way of dealing with the situation that suits both of you. Oftentimes fights are more over miscommunication than anything else. Usually both sides mean well but misunderstand one another, and so a fight ensues.

Tell the person how you feel when they say certain things that upset you. Don’t throw past arguments or issues in your partner’s face. That isn’t fair. It isn’t helpful and they will resent you for it. Don’t call each other names. You will regret it and they will be hurt. Sarcasm doesn’t move anything forward, it only slows the process down. If you feel yourself getting heated or your lover is, suggest that you two couch the problem and discuss it at another time. Be sure to mention when so that your lover doesn’t feel like you are blowing them off. Don’t insult or give a low blow. Show respect when fighting. Think of arguments as the pruning that helps your relationship develop and grow. For more advice read, The High-Conflict Couple: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy Guide to Finding Peace, Intimacy & Validation by Alan E. Fruzzetti, Ph.D. and Marsha M. Linehan, Ph.D.