How do you deal with conflict and negative emotion in your marriage? Many couples either avoid the conflict all together or lash out in unhealthy ways. In my practice, I’ve observed couples fall into a damaging and destructive cycle. It starts with frustration, which is common for all marriages. The frustration often turns into anger, which also is not unusual. However, when the frustration and anger are not constructively and effectively resolved, resentment will follow. In fact, anger with a history turns into resentment. The next phase of this cycle is detachment. Over time resentment builds and one or both individuals in a marriage begins to detach. The couple may detach emotionally and/or physically. By this point in the marriage it’s obvious that a problem exists. Sadly, most couples don’t do anything about it. The final phase of the cycle is self-destructive behaviors. One or both parties begin to self-destruct. Examples of self-destructive behaviors are infidelity, pornography, alcohol or drug abuse, violence, overeating, gambling, and/or excessive spending. There are many different ways people self-destruct. So how do you prevent this from happening in your marriage? For starters, deal with negative emotion and conflict effectively as it appears and avoid stuffing it. Take responsibility for your actions, emotions, and thoughts rather than defending and justifying yourself. If you aren’t successful, get counseling to learn skills to communicate effectively and work through conflict. Get help before the detachment and self-destruction destroy your marriage.
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