Couples often come to therapy citing “communication problems,” which can be a blanket statement that often means they don’t know how to resolve conflict. Here we explore the patterns often found in romantic relationship conflicts.
We often hear people in romantic relationships express concerns about communication. This can sometimes be a loaded statement that takes some time to break down into smaller pieces to determine the actual source of frustration. Often, concerns over communication are actually concerns about conflict and the ways couples seem to be unable to resolve their conflict. Dr. Sue Johnson has studied relationships and found 3 types of conflict she calls the demon dialogues. When couples argue, there is often a pattern that emerges and can be summarized by the demon dialogues.
The different patterns of relationship conflict
Find the bad guy – in these conflicts, both partners are trying to make the other partner the bad guy often blaming each other and not acknowledging their own contributions to the problem
Protest polka – This happens when one partner shuts down and the other person, desperate to get some response, will continue to poke the bear so to speak often with insults and criticism.
Freeze and flee – this is more or less a lack of conflict, someone may be attempting to share frustrations, but they are not expecting a response. Both partners in this situation feel helpless and are not responding to each other.
The common theme in conflict in our romantic relationships is disconnection and often fear. We can change these patterns when we start to listen to the emotions behind our partners responses and see them as opportunities to learn how to better meet each other’s needs.
If you and your partner are caught up in conflict you cannot seem to resolve, contact me today to inquire about couples therapy.