Chronic conflict is ongoing and persistent; conflict that remains unresolved. This kind of chronic conflict, where you feel like you are talking in circles is called cylcical conflict. And the more you try and talk it out, the less connected and heard you feel. This type of conflict creates a lot of stress on your relationship. It impacts your view of your relationship and yourself. It affects your mental health and sense of well-being.
Many couples I see come to therapy exhausted from chronic conflict. These couples have exhausted their wheelhouse of solutions, and resolution has been elusive. Does this sound familiar? Have you googled the steps to resolving conflict, but the steps still do not achieve the solution you are seeking?
Resolving conflict starts with a mindset. While there are many helpful tips to resolving conflict, conflict is usually not resolved if your mindset is not open and intentional. Mindset is a combination of ingrained beliefs and values that influence how we see conflict. For example, if you did not grow up loudly debating every angle of a challenge, but your partner did, you will look at conflict and how to resolve it differently.
Another example of mindset is the belief that it will all work out. You may believe that conflict will just work out because you are used to dropping issues that do not seem solvable. Your partner may need resolution, though, and clarity about the details of the challenge. These two different viewpoints can conflict when trying to work through differences. To resolve conflict, you need an understanding of your mindset what values and beliefs are impacting your view of the conflict. You will also need to try and understand your partner’s mindset.
Understanding your partner’s mindset may be challenging if there is residual resentment from feeling misunderstood and invalidated. Resentment is like a thick wall that keeps you emotionally distant from your partner. Over time, partners can become apathetic. Apathy is a deterrent to resolving chronic conflict. It makes you feel closed, unwilling to even put forth effort at times to understand your partner’s perspective.
Intention- examine your request. What are you requesting that is not being met? Sometimes couples get stuck because they are unable to articulate their actual needs. Alternatively, your partner is not accurately interpreting your needs. Ensure that you are intentional with what you are trying to achieve and communicate about your needs.
Helpful Tips to Resolving Chronic Conflict
- Take time to reflect on your intention. Intention takes self-reflection. Are you coming from an emotionally open place? Is your viewpoint clouded by hurts and resentment?
- Be open to alternate views. We can get stuck in our viewpoint, particularly with repetitive arguments.
- Seek to understand. Understanding validates both positions. Seeking to understand another person’s position does not mean you will agree with the other person.
- Seek to separate the position from the person. If we do not separate the two, personal attacks arise, and defenses heighten. When defenses are up, it is nearly impossible to see another perspective. Emotion enters. Turf battles ensue. Conflict can escalate rapidly when you are being seen as your opinion rather than having an opinion or position. Another person’s opinion or stance is different from the person as a whole.
Knowing When To Seek help
- Entrenched viewpoint: If you cannot understand or accept your partner’s position, it can be helpful to seek couples therapy. Or, couples counseling can be beneficial if you believe that your partner’s viewpoint is inflexible despite your attempts to explain and resolve. Couples counselors assist couples in looking at the conflict from different perspectives and teach communication tools that defuse conflict so that they gain greater understanding and perspective.
- Out of solutions: If you have exhausted your approaches to resolving conflict, seeking couples counseling can help you identify issues, assumptions, and expectations underlying conflict.
When chronic conflict is resolved, you will feel more positive about your relationship. This positivity ripples over into other areas of your life, benefitting your job, relationships with your kids, and your self-view.