Conflict is natural in a relationship, in fact, done effectively it can have purposeful and positive influences on a couple’s emotional intimacy. So then why do so many couples struggle to reap these benefits?
A big issue is that they don’t recognize when and how to stop the argument before it turns explosive or damaging. To be fair, it’s hard! About 70% of couples’ problems are perpetual, meaning they don’t get solved over time, they aren’t going anywhere, and they often involve unspoken underlying needs.
You know the triggers for these fights well – the division of labor, the in-laws, those once beloved personality differences, to name a few. So, before the next conflict spirals into disaster try using the STOP technique to de-escalate and reset:
S = Self check
What is the level of your own distress? (0 = none → 10 = as intense as you can imagine) 5–6 = yellow light 7–8 = red light
Time-outs are for your sake.
T = Time-Out
Nonverbal and verbal indication.
Immediate stop in communication.
Agree on an amount of time and circumstance for returning.
O = Outlet
Avoid activities that fuel your negative emotions.
Clarify what one or two things are most upsetting.
Consider one thing you can do to improve communication.
P = Process
Return at the agreed-upon time and circumstance.
Resume communication, with focus on your goal for improvement. REMEMBER: TIMEOUT IS ONLY AS GOOD AS TIME-IN.
Self-monitor and repeat if necessary.
Dr. Michael Baglieri is a psychotherapist at Lukin Center for Psychotherapy specializing in couples counseling, family therapy, anxiety and depression, relational issues, dating, men’s issues, career development, workplace issues, cultural concerns, trauma, and grief and loss. Dr. Baglieri uses an integrative approach to therapy, drawing from family systems, multicultural, and trauma-informed perspectives to empower client growth. He recognizes that healing means moving toward an engaged and meaningful life, rather than fixing something broken. He takes a holistic and compassionate stance by striving to understand and respect clients’ entire context, including their culture, identities, and history. He believes people, couples, and families are inherently resilient, and he creates a safe environment from which he can support clients in finding pathways forward. Dr. Baglieri has worked with adults, couples, families, and organizations presenting with a range of backgrounds and concerns. He has received specialized training in evidence-based practices including Gottman Method couples therapy, emotion-focused therapy (EFT), prolonged exposure therapy (PE), cognitive behavioral conjoint therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and integrative behavioral couples therapy. In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Baglieri has worked as an organizational consultant delivering solutions for leaders, teams, and organizations on culture, leadership development, employee experience, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. His research on culture, men and masculinities, positive psychology, and relationships has led to national conference presentations and co-authorship on peer-reviewed publications. He is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, the Society of Counseling Psychology, and the New Jersey Psychological Association. A postdoctoral fellow in New Jersey, Dr. Baglieri earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from James Madison University and a Master of Science in marriage and family therapy from Seton Hall University. He earned a doctorate in counseling psychology at the University of Kansas and completed an APA-accredited internship at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Counseling and Psychological Services. In his free time, Dr. Baglieri enjoys being with his Italian-American family, exercising, baking bread, and traveling.
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