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Finding Hidden Love in Conflict

There is a strange thing causing conflict and stress for couples - frequently. It is hard to describe but I’m going to give it my best shot.

It is a pattern I live out with my spouse, Bill. It is a pattern I see frequently in couples I’m coaching.

Here’s how it goes.

Person A - let’s call her Sam, doesn’t want to be too demanding of her partner. Let’s call her partner Kelly.

Sam would really like help with the dishes. She has had a long stressful day and is exhausted. She knows that Kelly has also had a tough day so decides to tough it out and just do the dishes on her own.

Kelly, wise and clued in to reading body languages starts to pick up something in Sam’s energy. Kelly isn’t sure what the signals mean.

Sam, tired, exhausted but determined starts working on the dishes. There are extra “huffing”, “sighing” and neck rolls going with this task of dish-washing.

Kelly is starting to feel like something’s wrong and not sure who’s fault it is.

Sam is feeling mildly resentful and wishing that Kelly would just clue in and at least help with the dishes.

Kelly is debating between just giving Sam more space (and getting more ‘safety’ emotionally) or asking her what is wrong and possibly getting an angry reaction.

Kelly chooses ‘safety’ and retreats to watch the news.

Sam feels rejected, taken for granted, etc.

Sound familiar?

We all have done versions of this. Some couples get stuck in these cycles.

How can we stop the cycle and care more effectively for each other?

There are a number of places in these cycles where we can act and think and even feel differently.

1. Sam can voice her tiredness to Kelly. She can also volunteer, genuinely, to still do the dishes knowing that Kelly has also had a hard day. This gives both of them the chance to hear each other and find the solution that respects their needs.

2. Kelly can initiate the conversation once it become obvious that Sam is struggling for some reason.

3. What needs to be celebrated and acknowledged in this situation is the love and selflessness that started the whole scenario. Even though it would be healthier overall if Sam shared her tiredness with her partner, her initial motivation was caring. Both Kelly and Sam can pause to celebrate Sam’s desire to love Kelly by just doing the dishes.

Once a scenario like this plays out, the debrief often focuses on the lack of communication, the passive-aggressive body language, the victim/martyr pattern, etc. Although all those things may be patterns that got triggered and they need to be worked on, we can easily lose sight of the beauty that started the cascading situation.

What does seeing and acknowledging the love do?

When we can see the good, affirm and celebrate the love we remind each other that we love each other and are committed to the relationship. This is the foundation we need to securely talk through the patterns in communication that we want to improve.

So, what celebrations of your love have you been missing? Where has your partner been trying to give love to you that you haven’t appreciated?

Until next time,


The Luv Life Coach

Marilyn Orr, MA, CEC, PCC is a relationship coach with Luv Life Coaching, passionate about equipping couples with the tools for real and lasting intimacy. Learn how to listen better, handle conflict in productive ways and bring out the best in your partner. Contact Marilyn and grow your Luv Life skills today!

Marilyn is hosting her next Couples Workshop on Saturday, November 2 at The Cedars Ranch. To find out more and to register, click here: Couples Workshop at The Cedars Ranch

"I highly recommend this workshop. My partner and I definitely left with a strengthened bond." ~ Couples Workshop Attendee

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