By Randy Moraitis, MA, CIP, BCPC
I love that I get to do a lot of relationship counseling and coaching as part of my practice. As you may have experienced, when we have conflict in our most important relationships, it can really be hard to focus on anything else until we resolve that conflict.
Years ago, I found a great resource for relationship conflict resolution on the website www.therapistaid.com. I have modified the info to make it easier to remember and to put into action.
This info is useful in premarital counseling to give couples a tool for success, and it is useful for couples who have been together for any length of time to guide them towards healing through conflict. Couples are supposed to be a team. And all winning teams play from the same playbook—so this info becomes part of a couple’s relationship playbook.
Whenever you find yourself in a relationship conflict situation, try using the acrostic FLIRT to start moving towards healing and resolution.
F—Focus—start by focusing on the problem, not the person!
Whenever a disagreement turns to personal insults, raised voices or rude and mocking tones, the discussion is no longer useful or productive. It is wise to stay focused on the actual problem without playing the blame game. And if the disagreement becomes personal, nothing will likely be resolved, so it is smart to hit the pause button and take a breather.
L—Listening—use reflective listening!
Have you ever noticed how during arguments we focus more on getting our own point across instead of listening to our partner? Sometimes we can spend the entire time that they are talking just thinking about our rebuttals and comebacks—not productive! What is much more productive is reflective listening. This is where, when the other person finishes speaking, you restate what they have said in your own words. You do this until they agree that you truly understand them. Next, you share your side and then it is their turn to reflect back what you said. Reflective listening helps both side feel listened to and understood.
I—Use “I” Statements!
This is a common practice in support groups and 12 step groups to keep the conversation healthy. Here’s how it works: when sharing a concern, begin your sentence with “I”. For example— “I feel angry when you are late for dinner”. This sentence format shows that we are taking responsibility for our emotions instead of blaming our partner. When we start with “you”, we can put our partner on the defensive which makes it harder to have healing and resolution.
Remember that the goal is to work toward a resolution. Conflict and disagreements are a normal part of relationships. But if it seems clear that you and your partner will not agree, focus on a resolution instead. Try to find a compromise that benefits you both. Relationships aren’t just about what you get out of them—they are about giving. Ask yourself if this disagreement really matters to your relationship, and if not, then let yourself let go and move on.
T—Know When to Take a Time Out!
Just one mean or negative statement made to your partner can cause lasting damage. If you and your partner become argumentative, insulting or aggressive, then it’s a great idea to take a time-out. Have it be part of the culture of your relationship that you or your partner can call for a break when needed. Spend some time doing something alone that is relaxing. When both parties have calmed down, then you can return to solving the problem. And definitely be sure that you do return—it isn’t wise to leave important matters unresolved.
Next time you find yourself in conflict, try the FLIRT method to move towards healing. Better yet, share this info with your most significant relationships even before the next conflict arises so that everyone is playing from the same playbook!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic or answer any questions you may have.
About Randy Moraitis, MA, CIP, BCPC
Randy is married to Kim and they live in Laguna Niguel. Together they have a blended family of five adult children and three beautiful grandchildren. (If you don’t believe Randy, he will gladly show you pictures!)
Randy is a Certified Intervention Professional (CIP) and expert in helping families and individuals affected by addiction and/or mental health issues through counseling, coaching and interventions. He is an award-winning Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and is both licensed and ordained as a pastoral counselor. He has five professional coaching certifications and loves working with clients on executive coaching, life coaching, wellness coaching and recovery coaching. Randy has a master’s degree with emphasis in theology and counseling, a bachelor’s degree in management and leadership, and a certificate in health and fitness with emphasis in exercise physiology and sports psychology from UC Irvine. He has been leading groups, individuals and families to mental, physical and spiritual health in Orange County for over 25 years. His office is located in Laguna Niguel, CA.