Why is resolving conflict so hard: looking beyond the tip of the iceberg

It seems so simple - issues come up, we talk them through, and we change accordingly! Sometimes it really does work that way - when we're clear about what the issue is, we have a general sense of trust in our capacity as a couple to work through conflict, when life is relatively stress-free, and when the issue is easily understood and resolved. The rest of the time?  I often think that issues couples fight about are like the tip of the iceberg - the thing being talked about is often the thing we can see, but it's the parts we can't see that are tripping us up. Let's say we're continually arguing about money, for example. What we see may be that we disagree about how to spend our disposable income, that we don't see eye to eye about how to balance saving for the future versus enjoying life here and now. What may be harder to see is that one is anxious about getting sick and being unable to provide for his family - like his Dad when he was little, which resulted in his family losing the house. What may be also harder to see is that the other feels undervalued in the relationship - her unpaid work as parent is not noticed or acknowledged, so she fights for her value by spending money on activities that allow her to feel nurtured and special, without consulting him. If the issues that lie beneath the surface are not identified and actively addressed, it can feel like we're forever locked in fights that never become resolved. It can be hard to dig down to find out what's really going on. But if you're gridlocked over issues that seem to repeatedly create conflict between you, try exploring further, see if you can become experts at deep-sea diving and discover what's underneath. A simple way to start is to agree that you will suspend the need to argue your position or try and generate solutions to the apparent problem, and listen actively to each other.

Till next post, Vivienne

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