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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

Conflict 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 mind—a 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 The spirit of cooperation that once existed between you and your partner has been replaced by the corrosive cycle of blame/defend, accuse/justify, attack/retaliate, and finally, withdraw/punish.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 hasn’t experienced that familiar feeling of frustration over and over again—frustrated that you and your partner just can’t seem to get beyond what keeps the two of you bound in knots. You’ve talked it to death. Ignoring it only makes you feel worse. You’ve tried to convince yourself that you just won’t care about it anymore, but that’s like seeing how long you can go without inhaling.

Well, there’s a simple method to undo the logjam that occurs in your relationship. It’s 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 sheep’s clothing. The underlying relationship issue is the wolf, it’s simply dressed in sheep’s 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, you’ll 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 Builder’s 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 circumstance.
3.) Commit to listening to your partner rather than defending your position.
4.) Commit to acknowledging rather than personalizing your partner’s feelings.
5.) Commit to focusing on behavior rather than personality.
6.) Commit to validating your partner’s worth rather than judging your partner’s faults.

For more information about how to resolve conflict by pinpointing the issue read Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. free online book, Making Molehills Out of Mountains.



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Stop Self-Sabotage
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