Resolution: How to Make Space in Your Relationships for Love, Joy, and Harmony
by Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.
What are the
circumstances in your relationship that bring you to your knees? Those circumstances that
never seem to change, in fact many times, trying to change them only makes matters worse.
Does the word powerless come to minda feeling so pervasive it overloads your
emotional circuits? Feeling totally ineffectual. Anything you do or say has no impact.
Nothing seems to make a dent. The spirit of cooperation that once existed between you and
your partner has been replaced by the corrosive cycle of blame/defend, accuse/justify,
attack/retaliate, and finally, withdraw/punish.
Is there anyone who
hasnt experienced that familiar feeling of frustration over and over
againfrustrated that you and your partner just cant seem to get beyond what
keeps the two of you bound in knots. Youve talked it to death. Ignoring it only
makes you feel worse. Youve tried to convince yourself that you just wont care
about it anymore, but thats like seeing how long you can go without inhaling.
Well, theres a
simple method to undo the logjam that occurs in your relationship. Its a special
method that I refer to as pinpointing the issue. In order to resolve the unresolved
issues that exist in your relationships, you only need to learn how to stop arguing about
the circumstances and learn to pinpoint the underlying relationship issue
embedded in the circumstances that you find yourself arguing about.
You can infer from my
last statement that most conflict that exists between two people has two levels to it, not
just one. The first level is the precipitating event of the conflict, which I refer to as
the circumstance. The second level is the oftentimes unacknowledged aspect of the
conflict, what I refer to as the underlying relationship issue. The underlying
relationship issue is an issue that lies hidden beneath the surface of the event or
circumstance that precipitates an argument. The relationship between the circumstance that
precipitates the conflict and the underlying relationship issue is like the saying about a
wolf dressed in sheeps clothing. The underlying relationship issue is the wolf,
its simply dressed in sheeps clothing, the circumstance, so that it may better
hide its presence.
As you learn to
pinpoint the issue, you will find a new more effective way to talk about the unresolved
issues that exist between you and your partner. In order to identify the underlying
relationship issue, you need to know that the underlying relationship issue is
any one of or combination of the following four themes: 1.) Feeling unaccepted by your
partner, 2.) Feeling unappreciated by your partner, 3.) Experiencing the pain and
discomfort of unmet emotional needs, 4.) Power and control.
By simply changing what you focus on when you attempt to resolve conflict with your
partner, youll be amazed at how easily conflict lessens and compassion increases in
your relationship. As you stop trying to blame your partner about what they did or did not
do and start trying to relate to your partner about feelings that are activated by one of
the above mentioned themes, you will establish a dialogue that builds a bridge of
understanding rather than a moat of resentment and emotional distance.
Bridge Builders Checklist
1.) Commit to shifting the focus of your discussions from the circumstance to the
underlying relationship issue
2.) Commit to identifying the underlying relationship issue that is being masked by the
3.) Commit to listening to your partner rather than defending your position.
4.) Commit to acknowledging rather than personalizing your partners feelings.
5.) Commit to focusing on behavior rather than personality.
6.) Commit to validating your partners worth rather than judging your partners
For more information about how to resolve conflict by pinpointing the issue read Dr.
Frischs, Psy.D. free online book, Making Molehills Out of Mountains.