10 Dec How to resolve repeated cycles of relationship conflict
There’s a central truth about unresolved conflict in relationships and marriages. Couples who know it are already streets ahead in their ability to resolve conflict and avoid relationship impasse.
It’s a very simple truth, but it’s one that many couples either don’t know, or easily forget, and it’s this:
When relationship stress, tension, or conflict arises, there’s always a “back story”, but its’ not always obvious and you often can’t see it unless you make an effort to look.
It’s the “back story” (not whatever discussion, argument, or conflict that’s a result of it) that’s the real issue.
For relationships to grow, it’s this “back story” that needs to be recognised, acknowledged and ultimately resolved.
If you and your partner are falling into this common relationship trap, you’ll know it because you’ll be having the same discussions, arguments or conflicts in repeated cycles. Regardless of what you try, there’s no solution that permanently resolves the problem. Give it 5 minutes or 5 weeks, and you’re both facing the same stress, tension, or conflict all over again.
You’ll probably feel frustrated. You might also feel confused, impatient, angry, and helpless.
Understanding the difference between content and process level dynamics is a crucial key to breaking counterproductive cycles and finding permanent solutions that resolve stress, tension, and conflict in relationships.
Content level interaction is what actually happens. It is what I would see and hear if I was a fly on the wall: what did he or she do, look like, say? What happened just before that moment? What happened next? These are the facts, the story, (many couples refer to this as “the drama”), the actual words said, questions asked, and things that happened.
Process level interaction, on the other hand, is invisible: if I were a fly on the wall, I wouldn’t see process level things at all. This is the “back story”: all the hidden dynamics that happen inside and/or between people as they interact. What was he or she thinking? What was he or she feeling? And likewise, what were each wanting, or needing in that moment? What was this conflict really about?
Relationship drama is compelling, and it’s normal for couples to get caught up in trying to find solutions to their various dramas. However, this keeps couples interacting with content. There’s nothing wrong with content, it’s important, but it’s just not the whole story. Often, it’s not even the most important part of the story. Process is where the real story is usually unfolding.
Process level information is rich fodder for relationship growth. And it’s always there. Start looking for it when you next find yourselves cycling through familiar and unproductive relationship stress, tension, or conflict.
Ask yourselves what’s going on inside your own awareness. Then ask each other. Talk together and share your process level insights. Match these against whatever drama is going on. How do they connect? What are your respective deeper needs? What happens when you start attending to these instead? Stay aware of both content and process, and you’ll be better equipped for a relationship that thrives ☺
Want to learn more about how to permanently resolve your own relationship dramas? Contact Pamela here. Sunshine Holistic Counselling is ready to work with you to create a happier relationship or marriage.