Successful Couples Repair Conflict

Conflict 10

Let’s face it. All couples fight. In successful relationships as well as others. Having fights is not necessarily a sign that your relationship is doomed to failure.

If all couples fight, What then makes the difference between successful vs unsuccessful relationships?

Simply put, one major difference is having the skills and ability to repair the emotional damage done during the fight. Some couples simply can’t get past it and simmer for days, weeks, even months. I know of one couple that kept a resentment for years. They didn’t divorce – they simply built a wall between them and added a few more bricks every month until there basically was no hope of reconnecting.This couple slept in separate bedrooms, rarely talked to each other, ate meals separately and kept separate financial resources. They basically were roommates.

Other couples fortunately have better skills and can bounce back from a conflict, a bad behavior on the part of one or the other, or from the pain of a grievance. Some couples just know how to do it. Mary and Jim were such a couple. They were a young professional couple with no children but strong personalities and a strong need for autonomy. She often wanted to do something that he considered irresponsible or not practical (she was an artist). He would “question” her on it (which she heard as a challenge). Her response? Anger, saying to herself “he is not going to tell ME what to do.” He replied that he was not trying to tell her what to do, he was just inquiring as to what was going on.

This led to an escalating fight with each “pushing the buttons” of the other until they no longer could stand to be in the same room. In effect, they had activated each other’s psychological alarm system so both their brains were now in a “fight and protect” mode. So they sulked for a while, until their nervous systems calmed down to normal levels. This allowed one of them (Mary)to quietly say “I’m sorry.” Then came, “I really love you and can’t imagine life without you.” Jim then said, “Let’s get on the same team and figure out a solution to the issue.”

More generally, partners with good repair skills do with following:

  • They keep the relationship itself in mind when arguing over an issue. It’s not only about “winning” – certainly not at the cost of rupturing the relationship. They WANT the relationship to work. They strive for emotional connection and harmony.
  • They realize that not all couples problems are fixable – some issues will always be there. The trick to repair is to learn how to live with each other around the issues rather than trying to change the other person to make them less irritating to you. The challenge is to cope (within reason and without losing your “self” in the process) better while finding ways to satisfy each other’s needs.
  • They are mature enough to realize that their partners have a perfect right to their own opinions and ways of doing things. They try to drop judgment and instead strive to understand their partner better.
  • Finally, couples with good repair skill do not bring up the past to use as a weapon. They stick to the current issue without slamming their partner with insults, name-calling, accusations, or “dead cow” issues.
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    Anger Management In Action: Three ways to Deal With A Passive-Aggressive

    body language-angry young woman

    Thirty-three year old Roberto had promised his wife Tina that he would be home after work in time for her to attend her weekly “women’s group” at her church. Having only one automobile, Tina was completely at the mercy of Roberto’s promise.

    You guessed it! Roberto did not show up until 8:45 PM—way too late for Tina to attend her meeting. Rather than being apologetic, however, Roberto explained to Tina (who was outraged at this point) that he “couldn’t help it” because “I had to help a friend out who’s car had broken down”. He lamented “How could I let Michael down? He was best man at our wedding”.

    Was Tina being unreasonable in her anger? After all, Roberto was helping out a mutual friend. Yet, looking deeper into this situation, turns out that Roberto really didn’t want Tina to attend those meetings because it was “putting ideas into her head”.

    Yet, he couldn’t just forbid Tina from attending, so he handled the situation in an underhanded way—sabotaging her attendance in a way that would still make him look good.

    After all, he could argue, what reasonable person would get mad at someone who was late because he was helping out a friend?

    .

    The anatomy of passive-aggression
    Passive-Aggression is a psychological mechanism for handling hostility or anger in an underhanded or devious way that is hard for others to prove like how to lose weight fast. Sometimes the passive-aggressive is aware of what he or she is doing, and other times not.

    Yet, the result is the same—things are sabotaged by the passive-aggressive and it somehow is never their fault. A really good passive aggressive is very slippery with excuses, justifications, or alternative reasons for why things go awry.

    Passive-Aggression may not be expressed directly in behavior—but in words or humor. Sarcasm which communicates hostility is often a tool of the passive-aggressive person, as are jokes made at your expense.

    Some common examples of passive-aggressive behavior:

      When conversing with someone who is angry at you, they leave out important information which gives you the wrong impression.
      Talking behind the back of a co-worker in a harmful way—gossiping.
      Exaggerating the faults of your spouse (behind his or her back) to your parents while maintaining “sweetness” toward your spouse.
      Playing dumb or inadequate to frustrate someone or gain advantage.
      Upset with your wife’s weight, you “affectionately” call her “pork chop” in public in a way that appears playful on the surface.

    Dealing with passive-aggressive behavior is extremely challenging because a really good passive aggressive is very slippery.

    Often, too, you may not be sure if you have been the victim of passive-aggressive behavior—or not. You may be feeling angry and upset, but not sure why or if it is justified.

    How do you tell? One way to identify it is to look for patterns in someone’s behavior— not just isolated incidents. For instance, if Roberto generally is dependable and is home on time for Tina to attend her meetings, the one “miss” may not be motivated by passive-aggression. However, if he often sabotages Tina’s attendance while denying he is doing so, a behavior pattern is evident.

    Another way to tell is to catch someone in a lie or inconsistency in stories. Explains thing one way now and another way later after he or she forgets what they told you in the first place.

    Finally, match their words with their actions. If they don’t match (says one thing but does something else), or the person uses constant excuses or justifications for their behavior which don’ t add up inyour mind, consider that you are in the hands of a passive-aggressive person.

    What should you do to deal with passive-aggression once you have identified it?

    Tip #1- Directly confront the behavior and ask if the person is angry at you. For instance, ask “You called me pork chop tonight. Do you have issues with my weight?”

    Tip #2. Be on guard and don’t trust what the person says or commits to. Develop a Plan B. For instance, Tina could have arranged for someone else to pick her up for the meeting in case Roberto didn’t make it home on time.

    Tip #3. Use assertive communication skills to let a person know how what they do affects you and makes you feel. Try something like “I heard you repeat something that I told you in confidence. That really hurt me; please don’t do.

    For news and more about events, event planners and more, visit JugglingInferno.com.

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    Anger Management In Action: Handling Anger on the Road

    Road Rage 3Anger on the road is seen everywhere! Could road anger be a medical condition?

    Headline: “Road Rage may be due to medical condition called Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED)”

    What is the science behind this?
    The study, reported in the June (2006) issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry was based on a national face-to-face survey of 9,282 U.S. adults who answered diagnostic questionnaires in 2001-03. It was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

    Results? About 5 percent to 7 percent of the nationally representative sample had had the disorder, which would equal up to 16 million Americans. That is higher than better-known mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

    The average number of lifetime attacks per person was 43, resulting in $1,359 in property damage per person. About 4 percent had suffered recent attacks. Many of these anger attacks violated both civil and criminal laws.

    Is it real?
    This study has created much controversy regarding exactly what is “medical” about angry road rage and how it differs from plain bad, inconsiderate behavior. Undoubtedly, criminal defense attorneys will be arguing in both civil and criminal courts that indeed it is a medical condition!

    Are all cases like this due to Intermittent Explosive Disorder? Very Unlikely! Some are and some are not. This is why it is important to have a professional assessment of each case of “road rage” to determine the underlying cause, such as IED — or some other problem.

    Other causes that could come into play would include: alcohol or drug intoxication, stress, depression or bipolar disorder and, of course, bad, selfish or inconsiderate behavior. A good attorney will refer you to a doctor who specializes in diagnosing mood disorders to determine the specific cause in each situation of apparent road rage.

    Road rage vs aggressive driving
    The person who weaves in and out of traffic, tail gates, or cuts in front of you may not be showing “road rage” per se, but inconsiderate aggressive driving. He is not angry at you; he probably doesn’t even know you exist, being preoccupied with his own selfish needs.

    IED seen in other life areas
    It is also important to remember that persons who do indeed suffer from Intermittent Explosive Disorder may explode in many other situations besides road rage. Often they “blow up” at spouses, children, co-workers, or customer service employees.

    Remedies for road rage
    If road rage is indeed due to IED, there are two treatments that can help both adolescents and adults: (1)medications , and (2) cognitive training. The medications usually involve SSRIs (a type of anti-depressant). In my opinion, most people who show rage on the road do not need medication, but some do and will benefit greatly from them.

    Cognitive Training means learning to think differently about driving, aggression on the road, and other drivers including knowing some of the 22 home remedies for ringworm. Cognitive training is an important element in many anger management programs, which a few states now require for “road rage” behavior and/or aggressive driving.

    Some anger management classes and programs teach specific cognitive and behavior skills to control aggressive, inconsiderate, and dangerous driving behaviors. These skill include:
    Managing life stress better, including time-management skills.developing empathy for other drivers, learning healthy “self-talk” phrases, and adjusting expectations of others on the road.

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    Angry Over Power Struggles in Your Relationship?

    A young angry misguided soul sat in one of our anger management classes dejected. The instructor asked why he was there. He said that his wife was angry over his not putting the toilet seat down after his use. Other class members looked at him incredulously and remarked: “you spent all this money on an anger management program for that? Why don’t you just put the toilet seat down? His answer: “because last week I asked for sex and she didn’t come through. So, this week why should I do what SHE wants?

    tanking relationship

    Perfect example of a ridiculous angry power struggle that some couples seem to get into constantly.

    What is a power struggle?
    A power struggle occurs in a relationship when partners battle or conflict over who is going to win an argument, prove a point, accomplish a certain goal, or have things done in a certain way. Often in a power struggle one partner is attempting to force their will upon the other, or is trying to make the partner do something they don’t want to do. In retaliation, one partner will try and “even the score” or have a “win” even if it makes no logical sense. It is about winning, not about being rational or solving the problem at hand. In fact, partners gridlocked into this pattern often become angry if the other does not comply, tries to compromise or wants to discuss alternative solutions to the problem.

    Why is this concept important to you and your relationship?
    This concept is important because it underlies many angry arguments and conflicts you and your partner may be having. Think about it. Do you have angry arguments that often are more about the power one has over the other rather than about the issue itself? Some people just have to dominate others. It is their way or the highway. They are rigid and unbending. They know what is best, in their minds, and refuse to bend, ‘give in to the other” or admit they are wrong, mistaken or misguided.

    Often angry power-struggle people are lost in a “get-even’ mentality or “everything has to be equal” mentally with their partner. It is tit-for-tat with them so a volcano vaporizer should relax your partner and you. It’s about the balance sheet and all behavior is ultimately motivated by that “score” on the sheet.

    What are some other examples of it?
    *one partner insists that the other is not allowed to smoke pot (for severe pain) or it will end the relationship. The pot-smoker refuses to give it up, although he agrees to not do it in the home, in front of the children, or in public and will also get a legal marijuana medical card.

    *One partner insists that their 5 year old child will only be fed “healthy” food and has a fit when her partner feeds their child “normal” (like a McDonald’s hamburger)food, yet often does it herself when alone with the child.

    *Partner argues for hours over a political point to convince partner that he/she is right about it and they are wrong. The righteous one keeps both of them up until 3:00 AM arguing over the point until the other concedes.

    *Partner insists that other take a certain route to a friend’s house even though other wants to go another way that is equally distant. This leads to a fight they have had for years.

    How do people get “power” in a relationship?
    Some partners just bring this trait into the relationship with them and are often like that in other areas of their lives too. They just have to right, to be first, to have done it better, to know things you don’t know. Everything is a competition with these folks – it is part of their core personality.It makes them feel good to always be in the driver’ s seat, so to speak. Often they are very insecure underneath and being right feeds their ego and their sense of being adequate. Being wrong validates their feeling of inadequacy.

    But in other relationships, the partners seem to trigger it in each other, even if they are not like that in other areas of their lives or even in other relationships. There are many other bases for power in relationships and it is quite a complex subject, when you really stop and think about it. Where does “power” come from? How can you get it? It is often thought among professionals that the person who loves the most (or is most needy) in an intimate relationship has the least power while the person who loves the least(is less needy) has more of the power (they have less to lose if it doesn’t work out).

    Money and PowerBut, people gain (or lose power) power in relationships for many other reasons too. How about money? Does earning level bring power?

    Example: Dave was recently divorced,and pretty much lost his business and most of his assets. Soon thereafter he met Martha who was quite well off through rental real estate properties. He started managing her properties but was also her lover. Soon, she controlled his whole life, ordering him around like he was an $8 per hour employee. She said “jump” and he asked, “how high”?

    She literally would lie in bed while he popped grapes in her mouth as requested, while seething inside and then coming to his therapist exploding in anger. When asked why he put up with it, turns out that it was about the money. A “Yes, dear” response to her requests ensured that she would be willing to finance a new business venture he needed to get back on his feet.

    Sex and Power. Many partners control their partners through sex (or lack of sex) which tends to generate anger and resentment in the sex-starved partner. This can go both ways, but more often than not, it is the man who feels sex-starved or experiences resentment because he has to “beg” for it.

    Example: Dan was a 41 year old plumber and father of two children. Married for thirteen years, he said that he and his wife used to be like rabbits sexually before they had children. Now, “she has no interest, devoting almost 100% of her time to the kids and their needs. He is constantly angry due to sexual frustration but can do nothing about it. Yes, he has talked to her on many occasions. Her reply: “live with it.” He does not want to have an affair, but asks: “why should I have to give up something so important to me?” “It is like I am dying of thirst, she has the only well in town which is dry and she forbids me to visit other towns.”

    Competency and Power:Sometimes partners sort of inherit power in certain areas of the relationship because they are clearly more competent in that area. For instance, if one partner is a better money handler, he or she should probably handle the budget and be in charge of financial management. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the financial handler will have more power in other aspects of the relationship such as parenting, vacation planning, or setting the emotional mood of the household.

    Mood Setting and Power: 40 year old Peter told me that his wife of 12 years is extremely moody due to numerous medical problems as well as a core personality of many mood fluctuations. “The minute I walk in the door,” he says, I sense her mood.” “If it is bad or negative, I pour myself a glass of scotch, go to my room and hibernate for several hours, just to be alone.” If, on the other hand, his wife’s mood is positive, the family has a joyous evening with each other that night. In this case, his wife has all the power as a mood setter in the family.

    Status and Power; Sometimes couples equate differences in perceived status as a basis for trying to dominate or control the other. Status might mean “social” status, occupational status, or gender status. In many cultures, men are seen as the head of household by default; these men get very angry if they do not receive “respect” from their women or children. They tend to use anger, authority, and bullying to get their way. Sometimes they are married to women who use sadness (tears) and appeals of helplessness to influence their mates. In the United States, most woman do not accept these stereotyped roles any longer as they have have gained much ‘power” through economic and occupational equality.Obviously this change can create mountains of conflict if they couple does not agree on role definition, and who does what around the house and in the relationship.

    On the other hand, I have seen many couples wherein it is the woman who has most power and control in the relationship. These women emotionally abuse their mates through contempt,disrespect, guilt, chronic complaining and criticalness of their partner and sometimes even alienation of the children against their father. Upon occasion, these men finally “blow up” out of shear frustration of never being able to please their wife. Then these men are accused of having an “anger problem” and required by their wives to seek help.

    How can it be fixed?In healthy relationships, power struggles are resolved naturally through a natural balance. You win today over finances; she wins tomorrow over parenting.

    But, diffusing defusing power struggles in a troubled relationship can be tricky indeed. Sometimes it is best to just let it go..and give the power to your partner, especially if the power is based on superior competency or skill (like money handling or culinary expertise). Another case where it might be better to let it go is when it is part of your partner’s personality, as described above. Can’t change it. What else are you going to do? Acceptance of that which is not changeable in a relationship is a major tool of anger control.

    A wise person comes to realize that being right isn’t always important – being happy or content or in peace may be much more important.

    Why is it so hard sometimes to just let it go? Here are some reasons that I have observed and some solutions that should be of help to you:
    1. Most conflicts between partners do not have a “right” and a “wrong” answer at all. In fact, most relationship conflicts are based on opinions, judgments, and attitudes – not facts that provide firm guidelines about what is the correct “answer” to a relationship dispute.Take the case above with the fight over what their child should eat. Will a McDonald’s hamburger once a week truly hurt a child? Will a vegetarian child be healthier in life than other children?

    The Solution: Realize that just because you believe it, doesn’t make it absolute fact, or doesn’t make it the ONLY fact. Your partner has a right to their opinion too (even if you think it is wrong or misguided). So try to loosen up and be more reasonable instead of righteous and rigid.

    2. Arguments that appear to be logically based often are emotionally based, so they can’t be solved logically. Prime example: the couple described above who fight in the car over which way to travel to a friend’s house. In this case, the point of the argument stops being about finding an objective solution and starts being about who is more entitled to be ‘right’. That is an emotional issue – not a logical one. The emotion is “Autonomy” -or the need to make one’s own decisions, to have free will, and not be dominated or controlled by the other one.

    The Solution:
    Take a time out to cool down before the argument gets out of hand. Before doing anything, take in a deep breath, talk to yourself and de-escalate that emotion inside of you that wants to be right. Do this before things get out of hand. In our system of anger management, this is one of the first tools we teach our clients, using the metaphor of the bullfighter needing to step out of the way of the charging bull. When calmer, try talking about it and compromising (Maybe go one way this time, and the other way the next time; or, establish a driving ritual or rule: the driver decides the route and othe must be quiet)

    3. One partner has lost respect for the other and frankly doesn’t care anymore what the other thinks. Loss of respect is tough to recover from, if it is possible at all. If you are on the other end and he or she has lost respect for you, sometimes what really helps is for you to demand less disrespecting behavior from your partner. Stand up for yourself! Don’ t let yourself be emotionally abused. Even if they don’ t like you anymore, you deserve to be treated like a human being, especially in front of the children.

    The Solution:One strategy to gain respect is to start acting and behaving in ways similar to other people who do indeed get respect from their partner. Put another way, be deserving of their respect.

    On the other hand, if you want to respect your partner, but can’ t get past an issue that prevents it, you will need to find a way to shift your perspective of him or her and focus on other aspects of their behavior or personality.

    This is not easy. Often, professional help professional intervention is needed to help you develop strategies and coping skills.

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    AngerCoach Show – Episode #11 – Anger and Sex

    This months episode we discuss the relationship that sex and anger share. As a practicing Psychologist and Marriage Therapist, I have come across many couples who experience sexual frustrations in their relationships. Often times anger can arise from sexual frustration, and as this episode discusses, sexual frustration can result from anger. In this podcast we teach four practical and easy-to-employ techniques for reducing sexual frustration and anger in your relationship.

    Please note: This anger program and these anger tips are not meant to substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or advice. If you have intense, serious or chronic anger problems, or you have to deal with someone else who does, you should immediately consult a mental health or medical professional for help.

    Should we be teaching how to better cope with angry people?

    Last night I was with my poker group, a small of men of varied professional backgrounds. The subject came up of anger management and what it is all about. I explained my 8-tools model of anger management which is oriented toward helping angry people control their anger. Suddenly, one of the group, a retired mathematics professor of Italian descent, stated ” I think anger management should be about teaching others to cope with my anger,because I am entitled to have it.” He was being a provocateur, of course, but it got me to thinking.

    Is our society too sensitive about anger? Should we just “toughen up” and learn to to cope with angry people better?

    The answer, of course, is that……it depends.

    While coping with anger in others is often times an important part of anger management (because people tend to escalate each other in anger dances), the fact is, for most people it simply doesn’t work to try and convince them the problem is theirs and they should learn to cope with it. That is because many people “opt out” and simply don’t want to be with angry people.

    Moreover, having to live in an angry environment often kills or at least severely injures all kinds of relationships. People in your life may learn to cope with you, as you would like, but they may stop loving you or they may stop trusting you in the process. In the workplace, they may stop giving their full efforts.

    So, on a practical level, the philosophy that “it is their problem not mine,” does not work to solve the issues at hand. At the end of the day, it is you – the angry person – that has to do most of the changing if you want better or closer relationships with those people in your life who are upset with your anger.

    Assaulted Teacher But Walks Free

    Recent Article in news.com.au
    “A SYDNEY school student has avoided a custodial sentence for choking a female teacher in a classroom, after a court found he was deeply remorseful.

    The 16-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had pleaded guilty at Bidura Children’s Court to assaulting the teacher at Randwick Boys High School on June 19 this year.

    The 24-year-old woman was treated in hospital for severe swelling and bruising to her neck, chest and hand.

    The boy was originally charged with attempted murder but that was later downgraded to assault on a school staff member occasioning actual bodily harm, which carries a maximum seven year custodial sentence.

    Magistrate Paul Mulroney today imposed an 18-month suspended control order on the boy on the provision he undertake education and counselling via the juvenile justice system.

    Mr Mulroney said he would not impose a custodial sentence due to the remorse shown by the boy.

    He said there was “no interest” in the boy being placed in custody.

    “It clearly will not provide any lesson. It seems that many of the lessons he needs to learn have already been learnt,” he said.

    “There is considerable evidence that (the boy) feels very deep remorse for what he has done.”

    Mr Mulroney said the boy had previously been the victim of “excessive physical discipline” from members of his family and at the time of the attack was also under psychological stress because of family issues.

    He accepted an expert report that the teacher was “unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time” on a day that the boy was feeling “considerable rage and anger”.

    The boy is an active member of the Hillsong Church and is now undertaking distance education and is a realistic chance of attending university, the court was told.

    Mr Mulroney, however, ordered the conviction be formally recorded to show the seriousness of the crime, adding that teachers needed protection in their workplace.

    An apprehended violence order is also imposed for the same 18-month period, preventing the boy from going near his victim. “

    Angry Mom Kills Child

    The costs of uncontrolled anger are high, as illustrated in the following tragic story reported in the 11Alive.com website in Atlanta:

    “Atlanta police said a Fulton County woman confessed to killing her 2-year-old daughter during a fit of anger.

    Investigators said 29-year-old Shandrell Banks told police that she became frustrated when her daughter, Nateyonna, would not follow directions, so she grabbed the toddler and slammed her head against a wall.

    The Department of Family and Children’s Services had just given the child back to Banks.

    Three DFACS supervisors have resigned and several others have been placed on administrative leave while the incident is being investigated.”

    In many such cases, anger management training and perhaps other interventions can help young mothers deal with the stresses of their lives- before it is too late and emotions get out of control.

    Anger Control in Sports

    News Item: “The Tennessee Titans are requiring Albert Haynesworth to continue anger-management counseling he started during a five-game NFL suspension for stomping the face of a Dallas Cowboys opponent.

    Haynesworth worked out at the team’s headquarters Monday, the first day he was eligible to return. The Titans will allow him to rejoin the team at practice today (November 15, 2006).”

    Is this type of anger display appropriate in sports? There are many that would say “yes” – that it comes with the territory in an aggressive sport like football.

    Yet, I think it is important to separate the emotion from the behavior. No one can deny that angry feelings are often generated on the football field – after all, the purpose is to defeat your opponent; this is often easier if you motivate yourself by generating angry feelings.

    Yet, in sports, like life, rules have to be followed regarding how that anger is going to be expressed and dealt with.

    Losing control by stomping the face of another player is clearly not an appropriate expression of normal angry feelings.

    In our anger management classes, we teach participants to “respond instead of react” as one of the eight tools of anger control.

    This tools teaches people that as human beings we have choicesregarding which behavior we are going to attach to certain emotions like anger.

    In other words, “anger feelings” does not need to translate to aggressive behaviors. There are many other choices such as ignoring it, handling it verbally, communicating about it after the game, etc.

    Contolling emotions is especially important for atheletes who often serve as role models for thousands of children/adolescents who look up to them. Please click here to see how teaching them appropriate life lessons such as anger control can have a major impact on their future lives. Also read more about best paintball gun