The 5 basic skills to manage relationship problems

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Like many things in life – cleaning your house, maintaining your car, even raising your children – there are a few fundamental skills that, once mastered, life becomes easier. You don’t get shaken up so quickly, you can mentally turn crises into problems and develop a strong core of skills that boosts your self-esteem and helps you feel confident.

Relationships are no different. Yes, there’s a lot of information out there, and if you get into the weeds, you’ll probably find around 300 things to worry about and do right. But you don’t have to worry about those 300. Here’s a shorter list: five basic skills that, like managing the house, the car and the kids, can make your life easier:

Control your anger

If you have that 0-60 temper, explode in no time, or even do that smoldering/fed up, periodic but damaging explosion once in a while, at some point you need to learn how to master it. It’s not just about relationships but about managing your life. If you can’t, not only will you hurt your relationships and with it your life, but you can easily develop a self-versus-the-world stance where the only problem is other people angering you rather than you. … a solitary and anxious life.

If this is a struggle for you, address it with therapy, medication, meditation, whatever.

See control as anxiety

Yes, some people control to control. For them, it’s about power and manipulation and using others as objects to get what they want, but for the most part control is about anxiety. You constantly feel micromanaged by your boss, but she’s probably a worrier who always anticipates the worst possible scenarios. Control can feel more suffocating when you’ve been living with someone, or even worse if it’s been going on for years.

Control as anxiety means that the other person becomes anxious and their automatic response is to get you to do what they want you to do. If they can, and you do, they are less anxious. To help you feel less like the ten-year-old under the thumb of an obsessive parent, replace the control you feel with their anxiety problem.

Then, instead of snapping and saying, “Let go of me!” say, “Tell me what worries you. He is the driver; this is what puts the problem before their court. But you have to practice saying this calmly: think less about feeling like a victim and more about the other who is struggling.

Look for the problem under the problem

You feel that your partner drinks too much or is too rigid or lazy, which drives you crazy. At this point, the problem is yours, not theirs. For them, what you see as a problem is probably for them a solution to another underlying problem – that drinking helps them deal with stress, that rigid is about a structure that reduces anxiety – or laziness is in the lurk. eye of the beholder and relates to different priorities or view of how to live your life.

Rather than complaining or trying to micromanage all the time, stop and ask questions about the problem below the problem: I feel upset about _______; how do you think differently; help me better understand why you do what you do. By doing this, you change the conversation, avoid falling into a power struggle, and have the opportunity to find better ways to see the problem differently or to solve the problem together in a better way.

Find the moral of the story

You have a big fight on Saturday night. You both got out of control. Part 1 learns to control that anger, but part 2 backtracks. Don’t just make it up and sweep the argument under the rug. Instead, figure out the moral of the argument. Usually, this means resolving the issue causing the argument and then figuring out why it got so out of control.

It’s about learning what pushes each of your buttons. Like cleaning the house, fixing the car, or raising the kids, learning to manage your relationship is a process of trial and error. It’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s not okay not to learn the lessons mistakes teach you.

Work towards win-win compromises

If you want to be in control, if you want to be right, live alone. But if you live with someone, you have to learn to compromise. Compromise is associated with surrender. Win-win trade-offs are for everyone to be clear on what’s important – #1, not a list of 30 – put it on the table, then negotiate a deal that accommodates everyone’s needs so that neither one neither feels like a victim or a martyr.

It’s hard to do on your feet – better think about it, then get together and discuss it. If the process becomes emotional or stuck, back off, regroup, and try again. If you’re still stuck, seek help – a mediation, counseling or therapy session.

The theme here is to take a step back, not to get into the weeds of the issue of the week, but rather to look at larger patterns and ways to have healthy, problem-solving conversations. Life skills, like cooking, driving, or kids, improve with practice. But once you have them, you have them.

To find a therapist near you, visit Psychology Today’s Directory of Therapies.