Conflict Avoidant Couple

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 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...

Overcoming Passivity and Passive-Aggressive Behavior

…in the Early Stages of Therapy Couples therapy has numerous challenges in the early sessions depending on the type of presenting problem. Our next few newsletters will focus on some unique challenges and what to do about them, beginning with passive behavior and passive-aggressive behavior. A common pattern of highly distressed relationships is each partner wants the other to change first. The complaining partner wants massive personality changes. The “request” is more or less stated as a demand or accusation, with no awareness of how much is being requested. When this happens, the pressure is on either you or the partner to do something to relieve the distress of the complainer.… 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...

Learning to Work With Conflict-Avoidant Couples

This month we will explore some of the dynamics and relevant issues with the conflict-avoidant couple. These couples look deceptively easy when they first present for therapy. They are often friendly and kind, and there is no obvious tension. In fact, that is a primary source of the difficulty. There is no tension! Frequently, they present with the complaint of “no passion.” Conflict avoidant couples often have spent years being superficially nice to one another. They may even be revered by friends and family for “being the perfect couple.” They have been nice for so long that the partners no longer know what they think or feel as individuals.… Read more...

Recognizing Beliefs that Foster Marital Disillusionment

  Partners meet. They fall in love and everything is wonderful – until within a year or two when they get mugged by the realities of daily life. Then comes the inevitable disillusionment. The partners don't conform to each others' fantasies and their flaws become more visible. This disillusionment phase is ripe for wrenching growth and for productive movement into the stage of differentiation. However, instead of growing in ways that are required to manage this painful disillusionment, many partners never progress. Instead of making the transition beyond symbiosis, they get entrenched in circular nonproductive patterns.… Read more...

A Glossary of Terms that are sometimes Confusing

Couples Therapy is a counseling procedure that seeks to improve the adjustment of two people who have created an interdependent relationship. There are no standard procedures to help two people improve their adjustments to each other. Generally, a more experienced therapist will offer more perspectives and tools to a couple. Length of treatment will depend on severity of problems, motivation and skills of the therapist. A couple can be dating, living together, married or separating and may be gay, lesbian or heterosexual.

Marriage Therapy is a term often used interchangeably with marriage counseling. The term marriage implies two people have created a union sanctioned by a government or religious institution. The methods used in marriage counseling, marriage therapy and couples therapy are interchangeable and depend more on the specific challenges of each unique couple.

Psychotherapy is one or more processes to help improve psychological and emotional functioning. Examples are psychoanalysis, cognitive therapy, behavior therapy, Gestalt therapy, Transactional Analysis, Rational-Emotive therapy, or group therapy. Many forms of psychotherapy are blends of different approaches. For example, newer forms of psychotherapy called energy psychology draw upon recent advances in brain and neuroscience. These approaches often build on cognitive behavioral methods.

Clinical Psychologist. After graduating from college, it usually takes about five years of graduate school to get a Ph.D. in Psycholgy. It then requires an additional two years of supervision and passing a written (and often) an oral exam. There are a few states that allow psychologists to prescribe medications (with additional training) but that is uncommon.

Psychiatrist. After graduation from medical school, there is a generally a 4-year psychiatric residency. After the completion of this training, psychiatrists must pass an exam issued by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to obtain certification and legally practice in the field. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications.

Clinical Social Worker. This profession usually requires two years of study after obtaining an undergraduate degree. While specific licensure requirements vary by state, most require clinical social workers to obtain 3,000 hours or 2 years of supervised clinical experience, after obtaining a Masters degree. Social workers can also specialize in diverse fields such as human services management, social welfare analysis, community organizing, social and community development, and social and political research.

Marriage and Family Therapist. Obtaining this license requires a Masters degree which takes approximately two years of post graduate study. The license also requires 3000 hours of supervised work and passing written exams.

The Couples Institute. We have assembled a group of top notch therapists at The Couples Institute. Whatever marriage help or marriage advice you are looking for, we are here to serve you. While most other therapists see only a few couples a week, we specialize in marriage and couples relationships, working to develop and bring you the most current and effective approaches to couples therapy. For more information about couples therapy or marriage counseling, see our couples therapy section.