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.
When conflict bubbles up, it is distressing to feel disconnected from the one we love. As a counselor, I hear couples describe an evening that was going well until criticism erupted. Their safe connection evaporated, and they felt hurt or angry for the rest of the night. Conflict can send us down a path where we feel misunderstood, dismissed or criticized unfairly.
Unfortunately, most of us react badly when we feel accused or attacked. We are quick to defend ourselves or go on the counter attack with our own set of criticisms. In this negative spiral, the original issue that was bothering someone gets lost, which means not much will be resolved.
How can we disagree and maintain closeness? It begins by focusing on our experience and feelings, not an accusation of the other person. “I feel disrespected when you are late for dinner and do not call.” It allows the other person to stay focused on the issue and not get distracted by accusations.
Next, state what you need and do not expect the other person to read your mind. “I would like you to call me if you will be late for dinner please.” This communicates what we need in a respectful way instead of tearing into our partner.
Although it could feel temporarily tense, the issue gets addressed, needs are more likely to be met, and your relationship remains intact. As with any new skill, this will require practice and patience. Staying connected is worth the effort.