Most couples experience some form of conflict or discord throughout their relationship. Understanding how to best approach marital/couple discord allows couples to grow closer and the relationship to continue growing positively. In this blog, we will explore common struggles that couples face and learn some tips for building a healthy relationship.

Common Discord In Relationships

Conflict and discord look different in every relationship. Some common sources of conflict include:

Intimacy & Sexual Activity: Some couples have problems with having a healthy amount of intimacy and sexual activity. Intimacy is often defined as a close, personal connection between two individuals, where trust, vulnerability, and emotional openness are present. It can be seen as a deep level of connection that goes beyond physical attraction or sexual desire. Sex, on the other hand, is a physical act that involves sexual arousal, stimulation, and orgasm. It is typically associated with the genitalia and involves various sexual acts such as intercourse, oral sex, and masturbation. Sex is often seen as a way to express romantic or sexual desire, but it can also be viewed as a physical release or a means of stress relief. While intimacy and sex share some similarities, they are fundamentally different. Intimacy tends to focus on emotional connection and vulnerability, while sex is more about physical pleasure and gratification. Both are important for healthy relationships and can bring individuals closer together, but they serve different purposes and should not be confused or conflated. Understanding the differences between intimacy and sex can help individuals navigate their relationships and build deeper connections with those around them.

Boundaries: Boundary issues in relationships cause countless problems. This can stem from poor communication about what each partner is comfortable/uncomfortable with. Lack of set boundaries in a relationship often leads to one partner doing something that others involved do not like; this can include breaches of trust and even infidelity. On the other hand, boundary issues can also mean that there are too harsh boundaries set, leaning in on the relationship being controlling. Partners should understand and set healthy boundaries for each other in order to build trust; if not, we often see insecurities in the relationship appear.

Lack of Vulnerability: Lack of vulnerability in relationships can be the root of many problems. Sue Johnson says “In insecure relationships, we disguise our vulnerabilities so our partner never really sees us.” Many people find it easier to hide their vulnerabilities rather than face them – facing vulnerabilities means that the next step is working to heal them, and this is a scary thought for some people.

“The key to restoring connection is, first, interrupting and dismantling these destructive sequences and then actively constructing a more emotionally open and receptive way of interacting, one in which partners feel safe confiding their hidden fears and longings.”
Sue Johnson

What Does A Healthy Relationship Look Like?

While even the healthiest relationships have some conflict, there are many aspects regarding resolving conflict that we see in healthy couples. Listening to understand rather than to respond allows for a better sense of where your partner is coming from, which leads to more compassion for them and their perspective. Esther Perel says, “One of the most powerful ways for people to not feel deeply alone is for them to feel listened to.” Something as simple as making your partner feel seen and heard can build trust and allow the relationship to grow stronger. Healthy couples also date – that is they create protected time to spend with each other. They also create protected time for intimacy and sexual activity. Couples in a healthy relationship have regular emotional check-ins, support each other’s interests, and have conflict-resolution skills. Passionate discussions are okay, safe, and encouraged in a healthy dynamic.

Tips for Building a Healthy Relationship

  • Dating: Planning dates and activities together builds intimacy, trust, and vulnerability. John Gottman says that “Nurturing fondness and admiration increases positive emotions about each other, and it is the antidote to contempt.”
  • Learning to Argue: Conflict cannot be avoided in any dynamic, but there are healthy ways to approach it. Conflict resolution strategies can help you and your partner find a peaceful solution to the problem.
  • Increasing Healthy Communication: Good communication skills include being able to communicate clearly and effectively, being able to express emotion in a healthy way, and being able to listen actively and empathetically. Practicing good communication skills allows couples to build a stronger, more fulfilling relationship; these skills allow both parties to feel heard, understood, and valued.
  • Building Vulnerability: Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” Having the ability to be vulnerable with your partner will allow them to have a better understanding of who you are. This allows for furthered compassion, empathy, and trust in a relationship.

Each of these tips allows for you and your partner to build ongoing trust and respect. It is important to set protected time for you and your partner to not only focus on intimacy but also to use these tips to help build a strong relationship full of compassion, understanding, and love.

If you and your partner are looking for additional support in your relationship, Garrett Counseling provides couples counseling at our locations throughout Alabama. Couples counseling can provide a safe space for couples to work through concerns in the relationship, as well as build the skills mentioned above. Contact us at (256) 239-5662 for more information.

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