Wendy Warner is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in private practice at Trinity Family Counseling Center. In addition to working with couples, children, and individuals, Wendy also enjoys teaching the premarital classes for all couples planning to marry at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Macomb.
We have all had that moment with our spouse when they say something that strikes a nerve and we reply out of irritation or defensiveness. The longer the issue has gone unresolved, the faster the fight escalates. The irony is that at the root of most fights is the distress that the relationship is threatened with a loss of close connection. Both partners are trying to restore the connection in their own way.
Most women attempt to restore the relationship by pursuing the issue when they feel the tension of their husband’s annoyance. They want to return to a secure connection with their mate, so they try to resolve it. Unfortunately, the repair attempt isn’t always communicated with soothing words. It could sound more like, “What is that supposed to mean?!” The message of repair gets lost.
Most men find conflict uncomfortable and attempt to shut it down to minimize the distress on the relationship. Unfortunately that can be received by their spouse as withdrawing, not being accessible emotionally or outright rejection.
It is helpful to understand these dynamics in conflict. If we can see the pursue/withdraw pattern as the problem and not our spouse, we are able to gain insight and patience in a tense moment. This is the basis of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, developed by Dr. Susan Johnson. As a marriage counselor who practices EFCT, I help couples learn how to better understand the original message and the feelings that got lost in translation during their fights.