Relationships – Resolving Our Differences

relationship counsellor brightonAll exchanges involving two sides have rules, even if they are unwritten. When we negotiate (argue…) with our partners there will also be rules and there is one simple one which is often overlooked but that can have a real impact on how we resolve our differences.
Arguments have a tendency to go round and round. Sometimes  we find ourselves in the frustrating position of being unable to reach any sort of agreement – things just get more and more heated until one or other of us breaks down in tears, yells, or checks out (literally and/or emotionally).
As individuals we might have very different ideas as to what behaviour is acceptable during arguments and what is not. Apart from the obvious – ‘no violence’, ‘no bringing children in to referee’, ‘no destroying property’ and ‘no name-calling’ – might there be rules that could help us reach a satisfactory conclusion in more constructive ways?
A favourite rule of mine I call ‘taking the floor’. Essentially, both people involved in an argument (I’m talking partners, here) make an agreement that whoever initiates a discussion has the floor and the other party has to stay on subject. If the other party has stuff they want aired, then this is done another time. For example, if Jamie tells Celeste that he was annoyed when she was late and didn’t call to let him know, Celeste does her best to listen, explain, empathise with his feelings and if appropriate, apologise. She does not come back with a quick-fire line about how she gets annoyed with him when he leaves the orange juice out of the fridge (or whatever…) Tit for tat exchanges along the lines of ‘you did this’ followed by ‘well you did that’ will simply escalate an argument as opposed to resolving the problem. In my mind, all tit for tat responses say is “I’m not listening to you!”
When Celeste stays on subject, Jamie is more likely to feel heard and that his concerns have been taken seriously. He can see that how he feels (and hence who he is) matters to Celeste. Being able to ‘take the floor’ might seem a small measure in a relationship but it can go some way to underlining how each partner feels about the other in terms of love and respect.
Celeste and Jamie are fictitious.
For more information see my later post of 2nd January 2015 – ‘Joint Therapy or Individual Therapy?’
Image courtesy of Simon Howden at
Copyright – Caroline Clarke

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