conflict avoidance

A grave digger’s perspective about one kind of marriage

I used to be a grave digger. College summer job. No heavy equipment. Just two good shovels, pick axe, tape measure, string, and a tarp. I wasn’t that philosophical then. I could not have imagined that someday I’d see parallels between that and my current psychology practice specializing in couple’s therapy. I’m talking about the price that some couples pay to keep the peace in their marriage. The slow, torturous death of continuous acquiescence. Every couple knows it is important to compromise. But what happens when conflict avoidant couples carry it too far? What parts of their relationship get buried when they deny or distort their dreams?… Read more...

Shifting Relationship Impasses, Part Four

conflict avoidant couple at impasseTranslating Internal Conflicts as an Emotional Bridge Before sharing the final part of this transcript from a session on shifting relationship impasses, I want to answer the questions I asked you last month. What are some of the wife’s struggles?   As I listened to the wife, I was aware that she drives herself very hard. She has a lot of expectations of perfection. She must do all her tasks well. It is rare she feels any break from multiple responsibilities and from being parental at home. Performance dominates her life. How is the husband doing with my assists? Her husband is struggling in this dialogue. It is extremely difficult for him to recognize that she has her own struggles separate from him.… Read more...

Conflict Avoidance: Shifting Relationship Impasses, Part 3

Helping partners develop clearer separation between self and other This is the third part of a series in which I have shared sections of a session on shifting relationship impasses in a couple with conflict avoidance and encouraged comments and questions from readers. Thank you to those of you who have participated in our dialog on the blog. In this portion of the session, because the wife has taken more of a risk, I decide to stay with helping her express more while simultaneously seeing if her husband can get any separation from her.  … Read more...

Conflict Avoidance: Shifting Relationship Impasses, Part 2

Thanks a lot to those of you who took time to write your thoughts about the transcript I last posted about shifting relationship impasses in a conflict avoidant couple. You were processing many of the issues involved. I picked this couple because they demonstrate many traits that are common in intensity avoiding and conflict avoiding couples. As I sat in the session with them, I could viscerally feel how disengaged they had become. I knew they would not change from insight alone! I asked myself: Why does the wife have so much difficulty expressing her desires? Why is her husband so sensitive to rejection? I don’t want to assume I know the answer to these questions.… Read more...

Conflict Avoidance: Shifting Relationship Impasses, Part 1

About a year ago, I wrote a series of newsletters dissecting one session with a particular couple. It seemed to motivate readers to exchange ideas on the blog. I’d like to revisit that format and ask you to think developmentally along with me, this time about shifting relationship impasses in a couple with the pattern of conflict avoidance.… Read more...

Challenging Communication with your Conflict Avoidant Couples

About two weeks ago late on a Monday afternoon, I sat in my office listening to a couple describe twenty years of conflict avoidance and intimacy avoidance.  Their communication was packed with vague unspecified references and their reported behavior was overflowing with examples of passivity. I thought, “This is going to be a challenging session. Do I have the energy for it? Am I up for the task? Will I be able to have an impact, to make a difference?” Some couples work very hard to avoid any intensity. They seek stability, security, and harmony. I know from experience that they do not change from insight.… Read more...

Conflict avoidance comes in many forms.

  Conflict avoidance comes in many forms. Do you recognize these? 1. Some couples avoid so many issues that you feel enormous tension just sitting in the room with them. For years they have shied away from discussing any issues that are potentially high-conflict. 2. These friendly conflict avoiders are warm, gracious and engaging. They just can’t bring any depth into their conversations. In fact, their shadow side is often completely denied. To avoid shame or humiliation, they won’t acknowledge negative feelings or impulses. 3. Passive-aggressive partners rarely set positive goals and won’t initiate much positive action.… Read more...

27 Years Without A Fight: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

It was their first session. And the tension that filled the air was thick as grits. They'd come about an affair. Or rather, the aftershocks of it. They implored, “Can this marriage be saved?” When I asked this couple how they had argued during the twenty seven years of marriage, they could recall only three times raising their voices at each other. On the surface their marriage looked as placid as the waters that hid the Loch Ness monster. How influential was this avoidance of disagreement to their current plight? That's the question that jumped out at me. For many couples fighting is a sign of things gone awry.… Read more...
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