2 Your Health: Relationship Stress: How Therapy Can Help

Dr. Rose Bricker, Blue Lemon Health & Wellness

Anger and conflict within relationships can be challenging. When we have difficulty expressing our feelings, boundaries, and desires to others, it often creates stress that we are not prepared to manage. Sometimes, anger is used to express that stress. But when anger is expressed in destructive ways, such as yelling, screaming, using threats, and belittling, that behavior can damage or end the relationship. Anger is part of being human. We all have the right to that feeling. It’s how that anger is expressed that causes problems. Whether it is a relationship with our partner, parent(s), (adult) children, friends, or co-workers; relationships are sometimes extremely difficult to navigate. People feel hurt and angry when the arguments get out of control.

In a partnership or marriage, it helps to develop some guidelines on how to resolve the conflict. Fair fighting ground rules, developed by Dr. Phil in an article published in 2007, help couples intervene in the conflict and keep the disagreements from becoming destructive.

Fair Fighting: Ground Rules

* Establish common ground rules. When parties accept these rules for managing conflict, they are more likely to come to a resolution.

* Remain calm. Try not to overreact to difficult situations. If your feelings become overwhelming, take a time out. Take a walk, do deep breathing, pet the cat, play with the dog, do the dishes—whatever works for you.

* Express your feelings in an appropriate, honest, and direct way. Use “I” statements.

* Be specific about what is bothering you. Vague complaints are hard to work on.

* Deal with one issue at a time. Don’t throw all the complaints in at the same time. Nothing will be resolved. It’s important to deal with the issues as they come up.

* Avoid accusations and/or attacks. “You” statements cause others to defend themselves. Again, use “I” statements.

* Don’t generalize. Avoid words like “never” or “always.” Those words only heighten tensions.

* Stick to the facts. Don’t exaggerate or invent a complaint.

* Avoid shutting down. When one person becomes silent and stops responding to the other, frustration and anger can result. This is a good time to take a “time out” and do some “self-care” techniques.

Are you experiencing challenges within your relationship?

Let me share ways to develop healthy and assertive communication skills that can improve the quality of your relationship. If you would like more information on healthy relationships, please call me for a 30-minute complimentary meet and greet appointment at 520-815-6901. My website is bluelemonhealthandwellness.com. I’m located at Blue Lemon Therapy and Coaching, LLC, 10132 N. Oracle Road, Suite 160, Oro Valley, AZ 85704 (in the business park behind the Fairfield Inn in Oro Valley).