When you and your partner have conflict, do you look like a "Dodge Ball" couple, or a "Soccer" couple?
Let me explain the metaphor...
What 35 years of observational research clearly show is that couples who last in the long term are always working to feel like a team. Issues are processed in terms of "How does this affect our team?" and "Are we interacting like members on the same team right now?"
When conflict enters the picture, the question then becomes, what kind of team are you?
Are you a team that kicks a topic around, almost like playfully kicking a soccer ball between both members? This is the atmosphere you want to create when working on conflict. It looks a little like this:
Partner A: "Hey, what do you think about our finances?" (The ball gets an initial kick) Partner B: "We've been trying to get them in order for a while. What do you think?" (The ball gets another soft kick back)
Partner A: "We tried having a budget meeting last month, but never found the time. Should we try it again?" (Another soft kick.)
Partner B: "I don't like big formal meetings like that. Can we do something with less pressure, maybe over a dinner..." (Another soft kick)
Notice the atmosphere they create, lightly tossing the issue around without blame.
Or are you a couple that plays "Dodge Ball" with a topic, basically picking up the soccer ball and hurling it at your partner. It looks like this:
Partner A: "Hey, what do you think about our finances?" (The ball gets an initial kick) Partner B: "Again with this topic!!? What do you want to do about it." (The ball gets an aggressive throw back.)
Partner A: "We tried having a budget meeting last month, but you came in 45 minutes late. Should we try it again?" (A hard kick back.)
Partner B: "I don't like big formal meetings like that. You should know this. Why don't you ever bother to listen to me and what I want?..." (A hard throw back)
There's lots of defensiveness and counter-criticism in the second scenario. You can see that those people are not on the same team trying to find a temporary solution, but instead just trying to injure one another, or at least make sure their point of view prevails. Ultimately this is a lose-lose scenario, and causes couples a lot of pain.