The Hope Couples Project is a resource center for couples, pastors, and professional therapists using the Hope focused approach for couples counseling or enrichment.
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What to do about conflict? Are you good at cooling down?
by Jennifer Ripley, Ph.D., Professor, Director of Hope Project
You've just had a fight. You said something you regret. Your partner said something you sure they should regret. Your body is in fight or flight mode. What do you do?
Taking effective time outs can be one strategy when you feel flooded out with an argument. But many people actually take time outs in ways that HURT their relationship. Is that you?
1. Do you just walk away and not say anything? If you need to take a time out so you don't say or do something you'll regret- you need to say "I need a time out. I'll be back in an hour (or let's talk tomorrow if its late)" . Just walking away increases the conflict when the goal is to cool down.
2. Do you spend time thinking about how your partner is wrong and what you could have said in return? If you ruminate about the problems and issue during the time out then you aren't cooling down. Your heart rate and blood pressure are still up. You are rehearsing thoughts about your partner and relationships that hurt you both. Distract yourself with a funny youtube/show, go for a run, run an errand, change the environment.
3. Do you come back and refuse to take responsibility for your part of the argument? Taking responsibility is n important relationship skill. You don't have to be solely responsible. But if you said or did anything hurtful- take responsibility for it.
4. Do you try and win? Ever hear the saying that you can either be right or you can be loved, but you can't be both? Most things aren't a right/wrong issue like 2+2. Most conflicts are complex issues of opinion, perspective and experience. Talk about the issue in those terms of how you see it- not as absolute truth.
5. Do you employ your strengths and spirituality to help you? Stop and pray a blessing on your partner. Think about your personal strengths (perhaps in being patient, planning things, calming down or being affectionate). Use your strengths to help address the problem- play to your strengths instead of working in your personal weaknesses.
Make an appointment with Hope Counseling Lab today!
We started with just a professor and a few students, working out of a small room in 2007. All these years later, we have served over 500 couples to repair and improve their relationship, written numerous article and professional scientific presentations on our couples' experiences, and published a book about it. Our passion and dedication remain strong. Join us in our mission to create healthy relationships.
"We were able to learn and use tools to better help us to communicate, thus providing ways to strengthen our marriage." -- A Military Wife
"My partner and I learned how to be on the same team." -- Male Partner
"The Hope Project is an excellent program. I highly recommend it." -- A Pastor who participated in the project with his wife
For the Science Geek Partners
Effect Size (Cohens' d for repeated measures) is .99 for the Revised Dyadic Adjustment Scale, which is a large therapeutic effect. That means the average couple moved up one Standard Deviation in their self-report of relationship adjustment from prior to treatment to post-treatment (Ripley et al., 2014).
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