End Self Sabotage © Martyn Carruthers
Relationships are an essential part of life. Healthy relationships include caring, support and respect. Unhealthy relationships may be based on power, fear, dependence or poor communication skills. We help people build and enjoy healthy relationships.
Resolve Relationship Conflicts & Triangulation
Outer conflicts often represent inner conflicts!
Many people are taught to ignore or hide conflicts rather than to acknowledge and resolve them. Hence conflict management is an essential part of almost all our life coaching and relationship counseling. You and your family, friends, partner, children or any other person are unlikely to have exactly the same goals, beliefs or values as you, or the same ideas about how to reach those goals. You will have conflicts!
Goals are shaped by needs, for example food, shelter and security. Values are shaped by beliefs, by standards of goodness, rightness and preference. Beliefs are sentences which feel right or correct … and most beliefs are shaped by relationships.
For many people, relationship triangles describe people who are romantically involved with two potential partners at the same time. While such relationships rarely end well, many triangles enmesh children in webs of negative emotions.
If adult partners use a third person as a messenger to communicate for them, this is also triangulation. If a child is repeatedly forced to take the role of temporary partner or parent, such triangulation can result in unpleasant consequences for the whole family.
My wife would never complain to me directly; she would complain to our oldest son,
until he told me. This kept happening until he was diagnosed with adolescent-onset
schizophrenia and a therapist explained triangulation to us, but didn’t know how to resolve. Johannesburg
When we help people who are in conflict, we explore many goals, together with the underlying values and emotions. Useful relationship goals are clear statements of:
- what you both hope to accomplish together
- what each of you doesn’t want or wants to avoid
- what each of you needs – information, conditions and behaviors
- how each of you would like the other person to support your goals
Conflicts can weaken or strengthen relationships. We help people to use conflicts to support understanding and respect, rather than allowing conflicts to support resentment and hostility. How you deal with conflicts helps determine whether your relationships become more healthy – or less.
We coach people to solve conflicts. People who do not resolve conflicts often build relationships based on denial, withdrawal, distraction or endless discussions, until unresolved conflicts destroy the relationship. (If you prefer to avoid resolving relationship conflicts – maybe read relationship breakdown.)
Conflicts & Avoidance
Do you avoid conflicts (Let’s not fight now), do you overuse humor (You’re so cute when you’re angry), do you minimize issues (That is not important) or do you inhibit conflicts? (You know what will happen if we talk about that)?
We suggest that you postpone discussing conflicts if one of you is angry, tired, or ill. It may be reasonable to defer resolving a conflict until both of you are ready for meaningful discussions, although indefinitely postponing conflict resolution may only delay resolution and increase suffering.
Conflicts, Denial & Diversion
Do you allow conflicts to emerge? Or do you try to prevent emergence with an attitude that, “Everything is fine“? Do you deny conflict by avoiding confrontation or establishing covert rules? (Sometimes, every member of a family, team or organization may say: “We are fine – we have no problems.”)
Some conflicts may not seem to be worthy of discussion. Often a small issue is simply a cover for a larger one. For example, if a partner is concerned that the other is having an affair, but avoids dealing with it, that person may explode over some detail … perhaps a towel left on the floor.
A group may agree to one person’s preference or members may take turns compromising. If the same person always agrees – or always compromises – this often indicates denial or dependence. But sooner or later, unsolved denial often emerges as emotional explosions.
Do you divert conflicts? Conflicts may be diverted by distracting attention, or by attacking the person who raised the issue. If one person says, “I don’t like it when you xxx,” the other may try to change the topic with: “So why didn’t you yyy?”
Do you clearly express different opinions, but not seek solutions? Do you know what the other person wants, but you do not negotiate agreements? If you don’t know how to use conflicts to negotiate win-win solutions, we offer you solutions.
Conflicts about who should have power over what in a relationship are common. Instead of fighting over who controls whom, as in military command, you can discuss and decide who can choose which aspects of their affairs, and work cooperatively to manage the inevitable conflicts.
People with power over others are usually reluctant to relinquish their power, while people lacking power often want changes to take place faster than a dominant person is likely to accept. Such conflicts occur when teenagers seek independence or when a population seeks regime change. If the weaker people emphasize mutual benefits and developing mutually acceptable ways of achieving their goals, they are likely to meet with more success than by more combative or competitive approaches.
Do you all allow conflicts to emerge so that you can find solutions? Can you all express your opinions about all conflicts? Do you confront all the issues? Can you negotiate solutions that are acceptable to all people involved? Contact us if you want to change.
Do you want relationship coaching or systemic coach training?
Do you want to resolve complex conflicts?
Conflict & Triangulation
In our systemic work, triangulation describes a situation of two people in conflict who, rather than resolving their disagreement, involve or enmesh other people, usually in attempts to avoid their conflict or their emotions. In family systems, a triangulated person is often a child or a childish adult, who may then express chronic negative emotions, behavioral problems or psychosomatic symptoms.
Triangulation can prevent conflicts being resolved. Triangulated children or teenagers who accept their parents’ discontent may develop behavior problems as compensation. See emotional incest and codependence.
Triangulation can also occur when three or more people discuss sensitive issues. In marriage counseling or couple coaching, for example, if a counselor may favor one partner more than the other, and the counselor and the favored partner may perceive the other partner as a scapegoat or as an object of concern, and perhaps respond to that partner as if to a difficult child. This leads to relationship chaos.
If people in conflict reduce emotional tension by focusing on a third person, they avoid resolving their conflict and may miss opportunities to increase their intimacy or effectiveness. Whether a third person accepts pity or blame from the others, or resents it, or fights it, the reaction of the third person may be interpreted by the others as evidence for their prejudice.
Triangulation in Marriage Counseling & Couple Coaching
If a person coaches or counsels a couple, then there are usually two of the same sex, and one other; and two potential male-female couples. Helping professionals risk identity loss in these meetings – they risk losing themselves in fantasies of brotherhood, sisterhood, partnership or parenthood, etc.
- Sometimes a marital therapist or marriage counselor likes or prefers one partner,
and blames the other partner for the couple’s problems.
- Sometimes a couple coach is overly sympathetic to one partner and conspires
with the other partner on, “How can we best look after this weak person / victim?“
- Sometimes a health professional is attracted to one partner, and provokes the partners to separate, hoping to have a relationship with the preferred partner.
So much suffering is avoidable. Many partners avoid dealing with conflicts until they are in crisis. We sometimes provide two-on-two coaching to couples and partners. This takes more work but can be very efficient. Neither partner feels outnumbered by the opposite sex. Having two coaches working for you minimizes any risk of triangulation.
Common Mistakes in Conflict Resolution
Can you both remain emotionally mature? If so, you have a basis for a healthy relationship. If not … you’ll get lost again and again until you mature or until you give up. Some common mistakes are:
- Getting lost in childish emotions …
- Being inflexible … My way or the highway!
- Believing your partner must lose for you to win …
- Opening another conflict before resolving the first one
- Not having enough information … Why didn’t you tell me?
- Clinging to one perspective … Your point of view is wrong!
- Focusing only on what you may lose … Don’t leave me alone!
After our coaching, you may not look at relationships the same way again. You will see the effects of immaturity, transferences and projections. You will see that many people hurt others with good intentions and you will see the consequences of abuse, betrayal and ignorance. Contact us for help improving your relationships.