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Domestic Conflict Resolution

Nobody said raising a family and maintaining a blissful relationship would be easy. Once in a while things come up that require tough conversations, and often those pin someone against the wall of guilt or complicity. Things get complicated when emotions kick in and issues of blame begin to cloud the air. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, and one of the biggest is trying to deflect the conversation away from the central issue by dredging up old news or bringing irrelevance into the debate, especially when the objective is to make the accuser seem as compromised as the accused. It’s called triangulation, and if left to fester it can evolve into one of the most debilitating aspects of family life, even a deal breaker.

It looks like this: one party wants to discuss the other party’s propensity to spend money on frivolous things, big money, and without the courtesy of a discussion beforehand. A bona fide we need to talk issue between couples, and a reasonable gripe. There’s no excuse, you’re nailed. But instead of allowing the discussion to land squarely on your back and owning up to the truth, some innate defense mechanism tosses a curveball into ring: “Yeah, well, you don’t like my friends and that’s unfair!” Wait a minute, your significantly irritated other was zeroing in the money issue and suddenly you want to make him or her the bad guy, rather than facing the fire of accusation. You just dragged your legitimately accusing spouse – and rest assured, legitimacy is not the issue – down into the muck of your mistake. The immediate backlash is that you’ve just made things worse not only by refusing to accepting blame and discuss the issue – a spouse who can never be wrong is a spouse headed for trouble down the road – you’ve doubled your trouble by opening another can of domestic worms that now requires a fix.

The best response to this situation is to wait until cooler heads prevail and then have a different discussion than the one originally planned. The two of you need to talk about how you disagree, how you approach each other with feedback and frustration. And if triangulation is part of that game, you need to agree to work on recognizing it when it happens and avoiding this trap in the future. Because triangulation stops everything in its tracks, and in those moments when two issues collide in the air between you there is a black cloud of risk hanging over your marriage certificate.

The objective is to create an awareness and a commitment to avoid anything close to triangulation when next you square off, to allow love to be a higher priority than being right. If you have a beef of your own, find another time and place to bring it up, and work on one issue at a time. And by all means, be open to feedback, legitimate or not.

When you conquer the urge to triangulate, then you can go straight at the money issue and the friends issue and anything else that requires attention, and you’ll be all the more productive in these conversations because of your new, heightened triangulation awareness.

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