If Your Conflict Style is like the Trenches

Different Conflict Styles.
Couples come to us with all different kinds of issues: sex, money, co-parenting… the list goes on and on.

But we've noticed that more important than the content of the issues, is the way the couple talks to each other. We've found that there are basically three types of couples, which we'll call the Trenches, the McDiff's and the Moore's.

Based on the short assessment quiz you just took above (if you didn't take it yet, click here), Let's see which type best matches your current conflict style. You might want to read about all the types, because you're bound to know couples in all three categories, or you can skip to the description of your type from your score on our quiz.

The Trenches' Problem Defined

How far have you let the problem go?
Unfortunately, before they seek help, many couples' communication devolves into the 'Trench Warfare' stage of conflict. These couples are really no longer fighting about issues; they are fighting for their lives.

Their fights don't resolve, they either just wind down, or "end" when one or both parties get exhausted or leaves (the room, the house or eventually the relationship).

Not knowing what the 'problem' is, is the problem.
The Trenches both know what the problem is: it is 100% the other person. They also both know the answer: the other person has to change.

The only thing they don't know is how to be convincing enough to get the other person to see the error of their ways.

Why doesn't the other person get it?
Even though they spend so much time fighting, in mediation the first breakthrough comes when the Trenches find out the other person disagrees with them.

Amazingly, this is news to both of the Trenches. They have honestly been living under the assumption that they were right and so the other person was simply refusing to accept their solution(s) out of pure stubbornness.

There's so much history to fight about!
The hardest part about working with the Trenches is getting them to listen to each other or even to themselves - in the present.

From a Time perspective, the Trenches spend most of their time in the past: either lamenting what was and is now lost, or trying to get compensation for past wrongs.

Sadly, the Trenches are hurting each other, and anyone else who depends on them. Their lives are very stressed out. Even when they are not fighting, there are any number of unfinished fights that can re-surface at any moment; and as a result, anything can set a fight off.

When nobody wins, everybody loses.
From a mediation standpoint, the Trenches' fights are lose-lose.

Yet, there is hope for the Trenches.

In fact, with a little bit of work, they inevitably evolve into The McDiff's. If your relationship is currently a Trench one, you might want to read about where you are headed

Not knowing what the 'problem' is, is the problem.
The Trenches both know what the problem is: it is 100% the other person.

They also both know the answer: the other person has to change.

The only thing they don't know is how to be convincing enough to get the other person to see the error of their ways.

to the description of your type from your score on our quiz.

Hope for the Trenches

Every journey begins with...
They say every journey starts with a single step, but I like to start my clients' journeys with the step before that.

Before you change anything, take some time to notice how things are now.

Watch how you and your spouse interact, especially, but not exclusively, when you're fighting. And then come back here and answer these questions:

Not knowing what the 'problem' is, is the problem.
Before we can do the connection-building Teamwork Mediation skill training, the Trenches need "remediation," to stop the war.

The Trenches are caught in a viscious cycle: one of them speaks their need as a judgment of the other person, and that form of speaking hurts and scares the other person. So they respond angrily, which reinforces the first person's judgment, so they respond even more angrily and the war is on.

This style of communicating makes it seem like the problem is the other person, because we don't notice the form we use to communicate our needs.

The Trenches think they are fighting about content, but actually, they never hear each other's ideas because they get so blown away by the form they use to talk to each other!

It doesn't take long, just a couple of new realizations.
Once the Trenches learn how to talk to their partner without using attack language, the viscious cycle s-l-o-w-s, and then stops.

At this point, you start to see your partner not as the enemy, but as someone who is just different from you: you become McDiffs.

Then we start building the benefitial cycle, which is the opposite of the viscious cycle: you say what you are wanting in a way that leaves your spouse feeling respected even if they disagree with you, and they respond respectfully back. This increases your level of safety and hopefulness, and so you respond softer and more invitingly, and it becomes increasingly easier to actually discuss content.

And not surprisingly, when the McDiffs find out that although they are different, they can find a solution which works for both of them, they each start to get more of what they wanted in a marriage, and so they become the Moores.

What's amazing is how quickly those transformations can happen.

It really only takes those two realizations to transform a 30 year Trench marriage into a Moore-like one, filled with optimism.

There's so much history to fight about!
The hardest part about working with the Trenches is getting them to listen to each other or even to themselves - in the present.

From a Time perspective, the Trenches spend most of their time in the past: either lamenting what was and is now lost, or trying to get compensation for past wrongs.

Sadly, the Trenches are hurting each other, and anyone else who depends on them. Their lives are very stressed out. Even when they are not fighting, there are any number of unfinished fights that can re-surface at any moment; and as a result, anything can set a fight off.

When nobody wins, everybody loses.
From a mediation standpoint, the Trenches' fights are lose-lose.

Yet, there is hope for the Trenches.

In fact, with a little bit of work, they inevitably evolve into The McDiff's. If your relationship is currently a Trench one, you might want to read about where you are headed

Not knowing what the 'problem' is, is the problem.
The Trenches both know what the problem is: it is 100% the other person.

They also both know the answer: the other person has to change.

The only thing they don't know is how to be convincing enough to get the other person to see the error of their ways.

Every couple can change.
What's hopeful for all three types of couples is that in real-life, every couple is a mix of all three styles, and as we said, each type can evolve (or devolve) into the others

Here's something to Try...

If you'd like, fill out your answers to the questions below, and we'll email them to you after a pause so you can sleep on your answers.

1. What is your partner doing, saying (or not doing or saying) which is contributing to your being a Trench type of couple?

2. What are you doing, saying (or not doing or saying) which is contributing to your being a Trench/McDiff/Moore type of couple?

3. Think back to the way you and your spouse talk to each other, and write down what you notice.

If you'd like us to email your answers to you, fill out the form below:
  Send it to me right away
Send it to me after a few days
Surprise me
   
To keep you working on your relationship (for free)
Would you like us to email you a weekly:
  A new question each week for you to consider?
A short story about what we learned this week from our clients (blog entry)?
A link to a short weekly video from the classes we teach each week?
Name:
Email:
 

 

 

Help for the Trenches

Stopping the War.
In our experience, it's nearly impossible for couples who fight like the Trenches to stop the war on their own. You're too used to using the worst possible interpretation of even your partner's well-intended peace offerings.

We have a well tested process for slowing the viscious cycle to a halt, so we can begin the benefitial cycle going.

If you are both fed up with fighting, we can help.
Stopping the war can happen as quickly as one session, or as long as six. The average is two to three sessions.

In any case, after even one (guaranteed) session, things will begin to get better.

We guarantee results, or there's no charge for the first session.
If either of you or I am not satisfied that this process is right for the two of you, there's no charge for that first session.

Come here, or from the comfort of your own home.
If you have a computer with a web connection and a web-cam, we can do the sessions right from your home.

Schedule your own appointment.

The way the two of you are communicating, unravels the fabric of your relationship.
The longer you wait, the greater the risk of your marriage coming undone. Let us help.

If you're ready to schedule an appointment, just click here to register and make your own appointment: