What are the most common relationship situations that cause distress, and how can they be fixed? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
In my clinical experience working with individuals and families, the common underlying theme in relationship-related issues is the presence of avoidance and reassurance-seeking behaviors. Both of which are intended to prevent or ameliorate distress, but often do more harm than good.
For example, one partner may not want to bring up a problem because it calls attention to the fact that something is wrong and could, in turn, 'make a mountain out of a mole hill'. However, just because there is an issue to address does not mean that the relationship is doomed or even headed down the wrong path. Conflict resolution can often be one of the best ways to grow closer to your partner and prevent future problems. So avoiding broaching the topic actually does the relationship a disservice.
Overcoming the tendency to 'let sleeping dogs lie' and avoid potential turmoil is easier said than done - many don't know where to start and question their ability to handle the situation effectively. There is a simple communication strategy to help guide couples away from an argument and toward a resolution - especially when discussions are emotional in nature.
First, describe (the problem/situation) without any interpretations or personal opinions. Use a 'just the facts' approach to ensure objectivity and, if helpful, your can even pretend you are describing the event on the news/in a police report. Second, express your emotional reaction in this situation using "I" statements. Finally, assert what you want in terms of the outcome and reinforce why it will be good for both parties by offering up the potential benefits to motivate your partner to converge on a solution (i.e., "dangle the carrot").
Above all else, be willing to compromise and express genuine interest in the other party's input regarding their ideas and alternative options.
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