Common Reasons Couples Seek Therapy Part 2: Unfair Fighting

2 min read

We can confidently say that communication in conflict is the most common reason why couples seek out therapy.  Sure, there are other issues going on too but most couples understand if they can’t communicate effectively, they can’t address anything else.  It’s the one problem that, if solved, can empower couples to resolve problems in their marriage or relationship.  So what can be done to help?  While there are literally hours and hours of educational resources to help couples with their conflict and communication, we’ll leave one small tool here to whet your appetite.  We call it the Conflict Window and if you know how to manage it well, it can be a game-changer for your conflict not just in marriage, but in just about every important relationship in your life.  Here’s what you need to know:

The three parts of the Conflict Window:

  1. The Trigger Point

    • This is the event that sparks a conflict for you.  That may sound simple, but you’d be surprised at how often couples have a hard time actually knowing when their trigger happens.  Sometimes they’re just too focused on other things to take note.  Usually, it’s because they try to ignore the feeling of being upset by what feels like “small” things and hope it’ll just blow over.  But really, they’re just ignoring the very first and essential signal in the Conflict Window.
  2. The Flood Point

    • This is when one or both spouses gets so upset, their lower brain or amygdala takes over with the “fight” or “flight” response.  At this point, it’s all emotional escalation. Few couples remember events clearly when they’re in a flooded state during a fight.  Lower brain state means we’re not thinking as rationally anymore and acting out of the fight or flight response.  Once flooding hits, it’s game over.  No good conflict or communication can happen after this.  
  3. The Window

    • The period between the Trigger point and the Flood point is the window of time a couple has to resolve a conflict.  This is where curiosity, understanding, empathy, and vulnerable communication can occur.  These are the necessary ingredients for healthy conflict resolution.  The problem is that for some, the Trigger and Flood points are way too close or essentially the same thing.  A trigger occurs and flooding immediately happens.  There are reasons for this that therapy can address but the bottom line is, conflicts can’t get solved when there’s no window to work within.  

The video will go into more detail about why this happens and what can be done to expand that window.  More than likely, if you’re relating to this experience, you could use the help or coaching to be equipped with more tools and training on how to manage conflict better. You’re definitely not alone.  This is a lot more common than you think.  Few people ever get “trained” on conflict skills before marriage but it’s certainly never too late either.  Give us a call and in just a couple of sessions, we can assess exactly what’s going on in your relationship.

Go to Part 3: Misalignments.

Visit our full course on Rules of Engagement or contact us for information on relationship counseling


About Ly Tran

Ly Tran has a unique passion for issues related to marriage & family, depression, and abuse/trauma, especially within the context of cross-cultural relationships and various ethnic backgrounds. He enjoys faith-based counseling, dealing with these and other issues with a biblical perspective as he continues serving part-time as a counseling pastor at Chase Oaks Church. His sweet spot is marriage counseling and relationship issues because he thrives in conflict, seeing them as entry points to healthier communication and deeper connection.

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