conflict resolution

Is there a war zone inside your own head? Creating healthy relationships between the different 'voices' within

It's not always obvious, but have you ever been able to distinguish between the different 'voices' that may speak from within you? Let's say you're in a new relationship - there may be the hopeful, confident part that says "This is great - I'm going for it!" There may be another cautious part that's been hurt before, saying "Hmmm looks OK at the moment...but I'm not at all sure s/he's really going to treat me well. Better back off - better safe than sorry!" The cautious part may not trust the hopeful part to have the sense to take it slow.

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It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it.... making love and war in intimate relationships

Have you and your partner ever found yourselves in the situation where you both want the same thing - to have a passionate sex life, to be able to communicate deeply about issues that are important to you both, for example - but are unable to achieve this? It may be that you're focussing more on the destination than finding the right way to get there.

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How is anger expressed and managed in your relationship?

Anger's a normal, healthy emotion. But as many of us who've been at the receiving end of someone else's angry outburst can attest, the way it's expressed can be damaging, even abusive or violent at the extreme. It can be very hard to realize that when I express my anger about the way I feel I'm being treated by my partner, this may cause her/him to feel scared of me and what I might do. It can be even harder to let myself know about how terrifying my anger may appear to my children, even when I'm not getting angry at them.

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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.

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When words fail: the importance of the 'non-verbals' in resolving conflict

It's great when we are able to talk things out with our partner - define the problem, generate possible solutions together, and have the trust to experiment in arriving at the right solution for you as a couple. This is an example of a 'top-down' process from a neuro-biological perspective; that is - the pre-frontal cortex (the verbal, analytic part of the brain) is online and able to do its work. The problem for so many of us is that when we're feeling distressed, especially in the context of our most important relationship, that part of the brain is off-line.

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Family feuds: when and how do we reconnect?

It's tragic when family relationships break down, even more so when the reasons may not be known or well understood. We may have family stories about a conflict or dispute that has resulted in huge divides within an extended family group - participants positioning themselves based on loyalty, principle or simply as the result of giving in to pressure from others.  Often when couples or families come for counselling, a wider family feud may be contributing in hidden and confusing ways to difficulties that they are experiencing.

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How do you manage differences in your relationship?

It's tricky when the thing that first attracted us to our partner - she's funny and outgoing.... he's thoughtful and kind..... becomes the very thing that can cause problems later on. Five or ten years later, her preference for socializing with large groups of people in noisy gathering places may mean you never agree where you want to go out together anymore. One person's tendency to help out extended family and friends at the drop of a hat may make the other feel that s/he doesn't come first in their partner's list of priorities.

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