Them’s Fightin’ Words: Changing the Tone of Your Relationship from Conflict to Co-operation

March 9, 2017
Anna Jankowska, LCPC

By Anna Jankowska, MA, CEAP, SAP, LCPC

Anna Jankowska is a mental health, addiction, and substance abuse counselor with over 17 years of experience and has specialized training and skill in working with individuals, groups and communities to improve mental health outcomes. NPI number: 1598843526

By CCI Team

Even the best relationships run into trouble from time to time, but the when an already bad relationship starts to go south things can get ugly very quickly. That’s when it may be time to call in the help of seasoned professionals. Counseling and mediation can really help in these situations, and it may be necessary for one or both partners to take anger management classes. If things continue to escalate, eventually ending in physical harm, domestic violence classes may help.

It’s possible to save your relationship from a trip to the therapist, but it requires you and your partner to work together so that you can improve the communication in your marriage.

Communication is Both the Problem and the Solution

Things begin to go wrong in a relationship with one or both partners feel as though they have unfulfilled needs. This could be related to the partnership, or these needs could stem from outside situations. If the people involved don’t address or communicate these needs directly, misunderstandings will start to happen. The husband may snap at his wife about something small. He’s stressed over an unrelated situation, but at the time it feels like it’s her fault. She gets upset and defensive. Feeling put down, she either attempts to correct what was never wrong to begin with or snaps back at him.

Either way, neither person has done anything to solve the real problem. Instead, they’ve invented new challenges to add to the pile.

Fighting Fire with Gasoline Isn’t Going to Help

It’s not right to add anger to an already angry situation, nor should you attempt to make up for something you haven’t done wrong. Instead, it’s better to give the angry person their space until they calm down. If they do not leave you alone, then you need to remove yourself from the situation until they are willing and able to listen. Once both of you have cooled off, sit down together and have a real conversation.


In a real conversation, both people listen to each other. They reserve judgment and make the decision not to take things personally. To follow up on the above scenario, the woman could start by saying “you were angry with me earlier, but I feel like it wasn’t actually about me. What’s bothering you, and is there any way I can help?”

This takes the responsibility for the anger off your shoulders, but it doesn’t displace it onto the angry person. Doing so will only make them feel guilty, and that will lead to more anger. From this point, continue the discussion and focus on resolving not only what made the other person angry, but also on how to prevent this from happening in the future.

Professional Help is Always Available

Polite conversation can’t solve everything, and some couples may not even be capable of this. For those times when you keep hitting a brick wall, consider anger management classes or domestic violence classes.

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