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Don’t be an "A"….Setbacks to Healthy Communication

We all argue. We all disagree. At some point, we all have conflict with our partners. 

But have you ever found yourself in a long, drawn out, seemingly endless conflict with your significant other? You know, the kind that goes on and on and yet doesn’t go anywhere productive? 

Perhaps you find yourself saying what you need to your partner over and over but he or she Just. Does Not. Seem. to be getting your message? 

Perhaps you are falling into the trap of some common setbacks to healthy communication. Perhaps you are being an “A”.

Here are some of those common setbacks that turn people into “A’s”…and prevent couples from resolving conflict and communicating with one another in healthy ways. Once you are aware of these setbacks, you can stop yourself from acting out these unhealthy tactics, and prevent yourself and thus your discussion from turning into a train wreak.

If you are getting stuck in an conflict, ask yourself, are you being an “A”…:

Aggressive - ex: attacking, yelling, insulting, “getting in someone’s face”, threatening, etc.

No one likes to be spoken to aggressively. Most of us will not speak to strangers or colleagues in an aggressive tone. But during a conflict, we often speak to our spouses that way. This primes our spouse to attack us back or to either physically or emotionally withdraw from the conversation. When we speak with an elevated tone of voice, use insults, verbally or (obviously) physically attack another person, that person immediately becomes defensive. This defensiveness manifests as either an attack back or a withdrawal, and the conversation is derailed. If you want to resolve the conflict and reconnect with your partner, cut out the aggressive talk and tone.

Avoidant - ex: checking out, leaving, walking away, shutting down, withdrawing, neglecting, etc.

This is the seemingly nicer cousin of aggressiveness. However, avoidance is as hurtful as aggressiveness and ultimately damaging to a relationship. Avoiding a conversation or being avoidant during a conflict is also a setback to conflict resolution. A common example of being being avoidant during a conflict is tuning your spouse out; being in the room physically but mentally being somewhere else. Avoidance is a form of emotional neglect and it should not be a part of your relationship. Instead of tuning out or avoiding try expressing your needs and stick with the conversation, it will pay off.  

Archeologist - bringing up old mistakes, or fights, using someone’s past as ammunition, etc.

Archeologists specialize in digging up the past and studying it in order to learn about an ancient culture or people. However, when we become archeologists in our relationship we end up setting back our relationship weeks, or sometimes even years. When an old mistake or fight is brought up during a present conflict, it sets us back in time and causes our discussion to focus on something that is impossible to resolve. We end up living in the past. So, leave the past in the past. Don’t bring up old mistakes or old fights that have been discussed and resolved. Never, ever use your spouse’s past to hurt them. Instead, focus on the present disagreement, the present moment, and you will be able to resolve your conflict more easily.

Side step these common setbacks to communication and don't be an “A”… aggressive, avoidant, or an archeologist. 

If you are finding it hard to stop being an A or if you are not sure how to let go of your past mistakes or of your partner’s past mistakes, find a good therapist near you and work that out. Because your relationship deserves a healthy you.

Remember, just because your partner is behaving poorly, this does not give you the excuse to do the same. 

Do not jump on your partner’s emotional train. 

Be your own conductor. 

This way your conflicts will be resolved more quickly and effectively and your relationship will be back on track!

by Lana Banegas, LMFT