at home couples therapy: solving the unsolvable

Conflict can be tricky. While it does have the strong potential to draw you closer to your partner, it can also make you question nearly every decision you've made in your relationship to this point. 

There are some conflicts in relationships that seem unsolvable. Both partners feel misunderstood, feelings are tender, fears are intense, and every word and utterance seem seasoned with anger.

What can be done when you are fighting with your partner, the conflict seems unsolvable, and you feel your entire relationship has been reduced to doubt and defeat? 

Well, when the primary objective of an argument is merely to be "right", and you're in a conflict that seems as though there is no clear "winner", the most beneficial step is to let go of your efforts to solve the problem. Remove the agenda, lay down your own solution for a moment, and respectfully engage in a constructive dialogue, with expressive speaking and empathic listening.  

Ask questions. Find out why the other considers their view or opinion important. When your objective changes from solving the problem itself and instead foucses on solving the moment, respect is your priority, and genuine curiosity with empathic dialogue can lead to both partners feeling understood and produce a higher probability of compromise. 

Psychologist Dan Wile describes this as “solving the moment rather than solving the problem”. Interestingly enough, in this exercise couples often find that what has been the source or issue generating the conflict in the first place isn't really the stated problem at all, but rather the heart of the conflict is something deeper that the couple is now able to see more clearly and address more directly. This constructive dialogue is one of the primary reasons why it is said that conflict in relationships can be the window to intimacy. Couples learn more about each other, acknowlege the conflicts, discuss the values and importance behind the concerns, and better understand each other. 

Conflict is not uncommon in relationships. This exercise is one way to help couples discover how conflicts themselves aren't the poison in relationships. When we can't solve the problem, we can solve the moment by slowing down, engaging in constructive dialogue with genuine curiosity, and reach understanding through respect and connection.