In the debut edition of Mother Knows Best, June-August, Ron Heilmann, local marriage and family counselor, outlined five ways couples can invest in their relationships. For the past several issues of Syracuse Parent, we have featured a separate article on each of the five ways to invest: Be Intentional; Spend Time Together; Use Reflective Listening Skills; Resolve Conflict in a Mutually Acceptable Manor; Forgive the Other Person for Going Back to their Default Behavior. This is the third part of the series.
When people got married 25 or 30 years ago in a church, the vows read “love, honor and obey.” Today, the vows read “love, honor and cherish.” According to Ron Heilmann, practicing family and marriage counselor in Syracuse and author of “Loveworks: Coming to Terms with Intimacy and Equality,” there’s been sort of a shift in authority.
That means today’s couples are in a relatively new era: resolving conflict mutually as partners seeking equality.
“Mutuality is a relatively new concept,” said Heilmann. But entirely possible.
Cooperation is the key to resolving conflict. Simply put: Keeping the peace takes cooperation.
“Most couples almost always argue about what happened. ‘Yes you did, No I didn’t,’ kind of talk,” said Heilmann. “There’s a sense that two people feel like they have to agree on the problem before they find a solution.”
This is a misconception. What you need from each other is cooperation and a willingness to help each other with the problem. For example, if one of you were having a problem at work, the other might try to listen and help, not argue about the problem.
“People waste time and destroy relationships when trying to get concensus on a problem.” Everyone has their version of a problem and to one, it may not be a problem at all. Therefore, he encourages couples to work toward resolving conflict within the relationship. To do so couples need to get behind the problem. If you’re taking a position, people need to understand the interest and concerns of the other’s position. For example, say one wants the children
homeschooled and the other wants them in public school.
You have to understand the interests and concerns from both people, said Heilmann.
“I have to understand why homeschooling is so important to you and you have to understand why public school education is so important to me,” said Heilmann. “From those interests and concerns, we can begin to arrive at a solution to our problem.” Maybe one parent is concerned about not enough social interaction with homeschooling.
Maybe the other agrees to establish more of a social life for the child. Whatever the case is, if you gather three or four major reasons from both position, you can begin to understand your partner’s viewpoint.
Couples must try to move together consensually. “Everyone takes a position based upon something,” said Heilmann.