Marriage counseling is often a popular and worthwhile route for couples dealing with a number of issues, ranging from minor communication problems to severe issues leading to intensive counseling. Many married couples choose to seek marriage counseling as a healthy option to pinpoint potential problem areas or to simply encourage a marriage that cultivates love, positive communication and healthy growth.
But sometimes, couples take brave steps to seek intensive counseling for conflict resolution – a tricky part of marriage counseling that can bring out fear, hurt, criticism and other unwanted emotions as a result of vulnerability. The concept of “fighting fair” to resolve conflict within a marriage is extremely challenging, which is why marital experts urge couples to include a professional to guide them toward healing conversations.
The goal of couple’s intensive therapy and conflict resolution
The goal of most successful marriage counselors is to target conflict and create solutions to conflict and to enhance intimacy in a number of areas, including emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy.
Couple’s intensives generally involve a deeper understanding of conflict resolution and how to build a relationship that is safe and positive, including learning skills related to communication. Many couples seek inventories including Enrich, Myers Briggs, or Enneagram to better understand the other to prevent future conflict.
Your spouse isn’t the same person you married
While the saying is true that “opposites attract,” couples are similar and different in a lot of ways, but one thing is always true: The desire to be known – intimately and fully – is something every individual strives for. Marriage counseling, at best, encourages couples with various areas of conflict to learn more about their significant other: their fears, passions, most intimate thoughts and expectations.
Why? Because people are complex and constantly changing, and marriage experts are confident that two people married for more than a few years are not the same people they were when they got married. Because of this reality, it’s imperative that couples practice mindfulness in terms of these changes, learning about their spouse just as they would at the beginning of a relationship. Cultivating a healthy relationship that undergoes change, hardship or even trauma is difficult to do, especially when each person has different expectations. As such, conflict can arise.
When dealing with conflict resolution, consider the following:
What kind of “fighter” are you?
Learn about how you tend to deal with this conflict and how you resort to fighting back. Do you avoid conflict at all costs, bottling your anger or insecurities until you are ready to burst? Do you lash out in anger the moment the conflict arises? Do you withdraw and become silent, unwilling to communicate about the present problem? Do you feel criticism and immediately become hurt because you interpret the disagreement as an attack? Learn your “go-to” fighting mechanisms so you can best learn how to get on the same wave-length as your partner. If you tend to store up complaints and count wrongs, this is something you should both be aware of. Discussing the ways we fall short and creating an atmosphere of confession is the best way to bring these issues to light.
Learn about conflict “triggers”
During conflict resolution therapy, it’s important to understand what generally causes your conflict, and how those triggers come about. Conflict can arise whenever you and your spouse disagree about perceptions, desires, ideas, values and expectations. These triggers can range from trivial to more significant disagreements, but identifying them regardless of the content of the disagreement will help you both learn how to cope with these feelings.
Different people demonstrate their anger differently, and learning how your spouse shows anger will help you learn how to resolve conflict better. Disagreements can lead people to feel angry and hurt, and feeling anger does not necessarily become a problem until it is no longer handled constructively. Anger can worsen depending on how people display it. For example, do you act childishly when you’re angry? Do you become aggressive or out of control? Do you use your words as a weapon, or do you resort to the silent treatment? Anger is a normal human emotion, but sometimes it can manifest into something more damaging than joy or sadness.
Setting ground rules
In order to “fight fair,” establish some ground rules. These rules will help keep expectations in check. Perhaps you and your spouse decide that avoiding bottled emotions is a priority, depending on whether one of you tends to clam up during conflict. Maybe a ground rule is to remain calm so you can both get your viewpoints out in the open. Perhaps one rule to keep in mind is dealing with one conflict at a time, especially if you tend to bring out past issues during different conflicts.
However you display anger or deal with conflict, Safe Harbor Christian Counseling is here to help restore intimacy in marriage and encourage positive growth and conflict resolution. Within a biblical framework, Safe Harbor offers Couples Counseling Intensives to provide an opportunity for couples to gain personal insights, work on dynamics of the relationship, and build a spiritual foundation. Intensives are designed to meet the needs and budget of each couple and typically take place over a one to two-day period.
During this time, couples meet with specialized couples counselors for several hours per day, working on various assignments to restore a healthy marriage. Various interventions are directed toward increased communication skills, deeper understanding of one another, conflict resolution and spiritual oneness. Safe Harbor also extends other counseling services, including adult counseling, child counseling, family counseling and more.
To learn more about Safe Harbor’s counseling, coaching and therapy services, visit http://www.safeharbor1.com. Interested individuals are invited to join in on the faith-based dialogue found on our Facebook page and are welcome to follow Safe Harbor Christian Counseling on Twitter.