Conflict in Couples: High Conflict
Guidance for dealing with high conflict in your relationship
Conflict in couples relationships is something that many people experience. Even normally healthy relationships. In fact, because people are different, they’re bound to disagree at times. Furthermore, arguing can release pent up emotions and bring problems to light. When couples iron out their differences, it can result in re-establishing rapport. And in some instances, it actually strengthens bonds.
However, keep in mind that with high conflict, you need to develop some safety valves.
Knowing what to do about conflict is what matters most. When it occurs, being able to regain your calmness and re-establish productive communication is vital. Doing so can bring relief.
How to recognize high conflict
There are physical and emotional signs you can become aware of. Recognizing that your interaction is shifting into high conflict is the first step toward resolving it. The following are some physical and emotional signs of high conflict:
- Physical signs. Your body muscles tighten up. You may start clenching your jaw or notice your hands balling into fists. This is part of the fight-flight reaction that kicks in. On a physical level, it is a self-defense mechanism. Furthermore, your heart might start pounding, and your breathing might speed up. A flush of heat could stream up your neck and into your cheeks. Your stomach might feel like it has twisted into a knot. These are bodily reactions that come with adrenaline release and the fight-flight reaction.
- Emotional signs. You feel anxious, confused or angry. You’re having trouble thinking straight and feel compelled to strike out or run away. You find yourself saying things you normally would never say. Your attention scatters, and listening to what your partner is saying becomes difficult. You wish they would stop talking, so you could say your piece.
When conflict escalates into aggressive name-calling, exchanging blame and insults or throwing things, this is high conflict.
Conflict can be a sign that a relationship is maturing and partners are voicing their views. However, with extreme conflict, the situation can become toxic. Unresolved aggression and power struggles can damage a couple’s relationship.
How can you regain control over your mind and emotions?
You should take a break. Let your partner know you need some time to cool off and will finish the conversation later.
To achieve a calmer state of mind, there are a number of things you can do:
- Deep breathing. One approach is to take deep breaths. Find a safe spot and do a breathing exercise. Exhale first and push the air out of your lungs. Inhale for about four seconds. Hold your breath for two seconds. Then exhale for six seconds. Do this a number of times for two to five minutes. Afterward, you will notice you feel more relaxed.
- Taking walks. Another thing you can do is take a walk. Look around your environment and notice the sounds and smells. Pick out the visual details of objects in your surroundings. Simply be in the moment, without judgement.
- Listening to music. Calming music can also have a relaxing effect. Choose some soothing music and listen to it.
- Take warm bath. An Epsom salt bath can settle your nerves and give your body a chance to wind down.
- Do meditation. People who do guided meditation can put their bodies and minds into a state of relaxation.
Resolve the conflict in couples relationships
When you and your partner are both calmer, resume your discussion. This time make an effort to be mindful. Listen, be fully attentive and in the present moment. Doing this will help you reduce the likelihood of entering into a reactive response. Be interested in your partner. Find out how they are feeling and show compassion.
We can also help you through couples counseling if you feel a need for greater support with resolving high conflict.
Want to give counseling a try?
Give me a call or text 973-793-1000 to discuss your situation. Try counseling and see. Discover for yourself if it’s right for you.