When couples are in conflict they become collectors of grievances. No perceived slight or error is given a free pass. The more we keep score of our partner’s mistakes, the longer we become entrenched in a seemingly endless cycle of anger, resentment, and disengagement.
In order for couples to break the cycle they can focus on the following:
- Switch to a team mentality. Either you both win or you both lose at having a healthy relationship. There’s no such thing as just one of you emerging victorious. Clear the scoreboard and acknowledge that you are both responsible for contributing to the current state of the relationship. There shouldn’t be a competition about who is the “worse” partner.
- Practice the assumption of positive intent. When you are constantly fighting there is a tendency to always assume a negative motivation behind your partner’s behavior. In actuality their intent may be positive even if the execution was poor. Focus more on appreciation for the intent, not the failed delivery.
- Pause before you react and think deeper about what’s truly driving your partner’s problematic behavior. Is it really because they purposely want to hurt you, or is something else going on? Maybe the true culprit is that they’re having difficulty managing uncomfortable emotions such as anxiety, fear, or insecurity. Once that is understood, you may feel more empathy for them and can better tackle the true root of the problem.
- Catch your partner doing the right thing. It’s easy to become hyper-focused on cataloging and communicating the negative. Make sure that you are just as invested in recognizing your partner when they do something RIGHT.
- Give each other some grace. While we shouldn’t ignore genuine problems, it’s not healthy or productive to react to every little mistake either. Human beings are imperfect. Be thoughtful about how you respond.