Dr. Aline Zoldbrod - Sexual Health
Dr. Aline Zoldbrod is a well-known Boston-based licensed psychologist, individual and couples therapist, and an AASECT certified sex therapist. She is the author of three commercially published books about sexuality and relationships. Her book, SexSmart: How Your Childhood Shaped Your Sexual Life and What to Do About It has been translated into four languages and was recognized as one of the top three sex-help books of the year. She is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Michigan Sexual Health Certificate Program. You can find her at sexsmart.com.
Tags: conflict resolution | counseling | marriage | disagreement

Tips for Resolving Conflicts

Dr. Aline Zoldbrod By Wednesday, 09 August 2023 04:27 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

As a couples therapist, I always pay attention to what my patients tell me about whether they fight a lot and, more importantly, how they fight. It’s such a central issue that I test for it in the initial stage of evaluation. 

Conflict is normal in a relationship, don’t get me wrong. But it is how the conflict manifests that makes all the difference. People who constructively address their conflicts become emotionally closer. On the other hand, couples who develop a destructive style of fighting grow more and more distrustful and alienated from one another.

The scientific research on couples does not give one simple and singular cause for distressed couples, but it does agree that how couples solve conflict is a big ingredient in couple happiness versus couple distress.

We have learned a lot about resolving — or not resolving — conflict in our families of origin — and often what we witnessed seems normal to us.

So for example, a man who watched his father raise his voice and psychologically bulldoze his fearful, dependent, and passive wife into doing exactly what he wanted at various critical decision points in their life may begin to show a similar style in his own new marriage. It feels normal to him.

But it created incredible chaos in his marriage, because his very accomplished wife was not going to cave to his aggressive style. In looking more curiously at his parents’ style of resolving conflict, he was able to see that he did not want to emulate it.

Good thing, too, because this woman had a good income, and unlike his mother, she would have left him.

I found a great list of “Principles of Fair Disagreements” in Dr. Christina Reese’s book, “The Socially Confident Teen.”

I think you can use this list to guide you in learning a more constructive way to handle conflicts and tensions going forward:

1. Use a calm voice, do not yell.

2. Don’t interrupt.

3. Ask for a break when you see you are getting upset.

4. Do not call your partner names or curse. Use kind words.

5. Stay on the specific topic, don’t “piggyback” and bring in old issues.

6. Express your concerns using words.

7. Express your own thoughts and feelings.

8. Look for solutions, don’t blame the other person.

9. Be willing to compromise, in order to reach a solution.

10. During discussions, try to channel an image of a peaceful, spiritual, wise person.

Did you see these behaviors modeled in your family of origin? I hope so, but many people did not. These are sophisticated skills, and worthy goals.

I hope you find this helpful. Lists like this are really useful, because they give a benchmark of what to aim for. You can’t get where you are going if you don’t have a map.

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As a couples therapist, I always pay attention to what my patients tell me about whether they fight a lot and, more importantly, how they fight.
conflict resolution, counseling, marriage, disagreement
Wednesday, 09 August 2023 04:27 PM
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