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Seven Ways Couples Add Conflict to Conflict

Money and partnership can be a dicey combination. Research shows that money is the most common source of conflict between couples. So, it is no surprise that financial pressure can disable dreams, wreck relationships and cripple communication between couples. However, good communication can improve relationships and increase intimacy, trust, and support.

The converse is also true: poor communication can weaken bonds, create distrust and even cause contempt. No matter the source of conflict, good communication is necessary to minimize tension and stress. Here are some examples of negative and destructive communication patterns that can exacerbate conflict in any relationship.

1. Avoiding Conflict

Rather than discussing frustrations in a calm and respectful manner, some people don’t say anything to their partner until they are ready to explode. Then, they tend to blurt out feelings in an angry and hurtful way. Avoiding an argument altogether seems to be less stressful. However, as tensions rise and resentments fester, avoiding conflict actually causes more stress on both parties. The result is usually a much bigger argument. It is much healthier to address and resolve conflict.

2. Being Defensive

When resolving conflict couples should address their partner’s complaints objectively, with a willingness to understand their point of view. Often, defensive people deny any wrongdoing and do not acknowledge the possibility that they could be contributing to a problem. Denying responsibility may seem to alleviate stress in the short run, but actually creates long-term problems. Partners don’t feel as though their significant other listens to them, and unresolved conflicts continue to grow.

3. Being Right

The point of a relationship discussion is to seek mutual understanding and find resolutions that respect everyone’s needs. It is damaging to determine there is a right and wrong way to look at things, and that your way of seeing things is right. Don’t demand your partner see things the same way as you, and don’t take it as a personal attack if they have a different opinion. Look for a compromise, or agree to disagree. Remember that there is not always a right or wrong answer. Both points of view can be valid.

4. Playing the Blame Game

Some people handle conflict by criticizing or blaming someone else for the situation. For these people, admitting personal fault weakens their credibility. They avoid it at all costs. Often, these individuals place shame and fault on others. Instead, try to view conflict as an opportunity to analyze a situation objectively. Assess the needs of both parties, and come up with a solution that helps each individual.

5. Generalizing

Some individuals blow conflicts out of proportion and make sweeping generalizations. Avoid beginning sentences with “you always” or “you never.” For example, do not say “you never do what I want you to do.” Before generalizing, stop and think about whether the statements are true. Also, do not bring up past conflicts in order to change topics and stir up negativity. These actions prevent conflict resolution.

6. Character Attacks

Sometimes people use their partner’s negative actions to point out personality flaws. For example, if one partner left their socks on the floor, the other partner may look at it as a character flaw and label them “inconsiderate” or “lazy”. Or, if one partner wants to discuss a relationship problem, the other might label them “needy”. Character attacks create negative perceptions from both perspectives of the relationship. Remember to respect the other person, even if you do not like their behavior.

7. Forgetting to Listen

Forgetting to listen is an important factor in all of the previous six conflict contributors. During a conflict, some people interrupt, roll their eyes or rehearse their own response instead of truly listening and attempting to understand their partner. Not listening prevents you from seeing your partner’s point of view, and prevents your partner from wanting to see yours! Don’t underestimate the importance of listening and empathizing with the other person.

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