20 Jun Conflict resolution for heathy relationships
Yay! Thankfully, in episode 5 of Channel 9’s “Married at First Sight”, we finally get to see a couple show how conflict resolution skills make for great relationships.
After four episodes so far, we’ve now seen numerous examples of how couples destroy great communication when succumbing to yelling, swearing, criticising, blaming, and self-defending during arguments.
Regardless of what the future holds for Zoe and Alex’s relationship, they each deserve a big gold star for the way they handled their tiff about Zoe’s role as “housewife” with some truly lovely communication and conflict resolution skills.
What did they do that was so great?
For starters, they didn’t try to resolve their issue when emotions were still high. And when they did, they turned towards each other, made eye contact, took turns speaking, and focussed on what each other said in a constructive and “adult” way. They talked, apologised, invited further feedback, and even ended their discussion with a mutual gesture of affection. Beautiful.
But wait, there’s more! In addition to talking about their issue, they also shared valuable information about how each reacted to the argument itself: specifically, Alex’s decision to leave the house for “time out”. In doing so they each offered insights that went over and above the actual issue being discussed.
It’s this ability to move beyond the content of an argument (the issue itself), and share process level information (insights about what each was experiencing during the interaction), that opens up real opportunities for relationship growth.
Here’s how they did it:
Alex explained at the outset why he had needed to get away: that for him, space is an important opportunity to think things through before returning to talk. And later, Zoe explained that for her, having a relationship with somebody who walks out after an argument is really challenging because being left alone bothers her in a very deep way.
In sharing these respective insights, Alex and Zoe transcended the issue at hand, moving beyond a tiff about Zoe’s role in the kitchen, and into far more productive territory. Now their communication is building mutual understanding about each other’s deeper relationship needs.
And it’s tricky, isn’t it? The way Alex needs to process an argument (to leave and have time away) stands in direct conflict with the way Zoe needs to process an argument (to have her partner stay close, and not walk out).
For this relationship to thrive, this will need addressing. And starting the conversation is the only way to give it a chance.
Go Alex and Zoe, you’re all over it ☺