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  • Writer's pictureTing-yi Huang

The High-Conflict Couple: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy Guide to Finding Peace,Intimacy&Validation

By Alan E. Fruzzetti, Ph.D. (2006). Oakland, California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

I came across this book when it was sitting on my ex-coworker's book shelf. At that time, I was working with couples who clearly love each other but somehow was grappling with better ways to resolve conflicts. Yes, he has said something that leads you to read this entry to figure out where things go wrong and what you can do to fix the problem. Yes, she has done something that makes you wonder is it ever possible to resolve the seemingly irreparable conflicts between the two of you.

Conflicts can be mitigated when both partners are willing to reflect on personal responsibilities. As Dr. Fruzzetti points out, "self-righteous is not 'right' (p.30)." In a relationship, where emotions are dynamic, a focus on right-or-wrong, fair-or-unfair takes away the opportunity to repair and improve the intimate relationship. Intimacy, as in "into-me-you-see," hints at the benefits of authentically empathetic feelings partners could provide for each other. When we focus arbitrarily on right and wrong, we set ourselves up for judgments, which further exacerbate the relational discord.

Dr. Fruzzetti highlights that one of the keys to resolving conflicts with your partner is mindfulness. "When you think, 'That's a beautiful painting,' you can try to practice (beautiful is a judgment): describe the qualities of the painting (subject, colors, texture, pattern) and notice your reactions (warm feeling, makes you smile, reminds you of something of value to you, enjoyment)....Noticing and describing often are open and lead to curiosity, wanting to understand more, whereas judgments and appraisals are closed, not open to further information (judgment has been rendered). When you assume what his feelings are, interpret or evaluate her response, question his motivation, or focus on how illogical she is being, you have stopped paying attention to your partner, lack awareness, and are not being mindful of him or her. Mindfulness of your partner is the gateway to listening and understanding, and eventually to collaboration, support, conflict resolution, and closeness." (pp.25-26).

In short, when we are experiencing and trying to resolve conflicts with our beloved ones, can we pause a minute and, before saying something on the rise of our emotional reactions, think whether what I am about to say is more curious than furious?

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