Understanding Your Cycle of Conflict with Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo (Episode 304)
Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo are back with us for a "skills book" highlight of their newest release, The 6 Pillars of Intimacy Conflict Resolution: The Secret to Breaking the Conflict Cycle in Your Marriage. It happens to all of us - we flat cannot avoid conflict in our lives. Sooner or later, it brews up.
Can you actually navigate conflict in a proactive way - not to avoid or deny it, but to work through it and let it go?
That's what we dig into in this video/blog/podcast episode, and it may bring up something you hadn't considered. (VIDEO AT THE BOTTOM)
Before You Face Conflict, Take A Look Back...
One key takeaway from this episode was that at the core of our conflict cycles are our comfort zones. And our comfort zones are typically established through our family of origin.
Yes, we unconsciously bring our conflict toolkit into our relationship oftentimes based on what we saw in our own homes. We can take it on as just a part of who we are, when, in all actuality, it was simply the norm in our home.
Maybe you came from a very vocal Italian family, like Tony, where everything is dealt with head-on, and loudly. Maybe your family kept every bit of conflict behind closed doors, and your only tools are NO tools to start with.
Taking a hard look at how you witnessed conflict growing up is the first step in bringing awareness to your own actions. When you pay attention to what you saw, you can start to match that to how you personally have reacted. Your final step is to determine what to do with this information - what tools are still serving you well?
The Cycles of Conflict
So much of our lives is cyclical. And so often we repeat the same patterns over and over again. Until we learn the lesson. Yes, there is a lesson in there somewhere, and we'll continue to relive it until we learn it or die trying.
Tony and Alisa share about the five stages of a conflict cycle:
- Boiling Point
- Resolution/Status Quo
These stages were discovered through thousands of hours of Alisa talking to couples with them understanding and identifying these exact stages, even if they hadn't put it down on paper.
The biggie with this cycle is that the fifth step isn't always true healing. Oftentimes you can get back to the "status quo" and simply sweep the problem under the rug without truly addressing it.
This can lead to negative patterns and recurring arguments, which are often due to underlying issues that need to be repaired or healed.
What can be so powerful is going through these cycles and really looking at how each of you reacts and processes during each phase - it can be a total game changer if you simply understand the warning signs and/or what may set the other off.
The Escalation and Cooldown
To me, these are the two stages where you have the most opportunity for redemption. When the conflict first happens, you may be caught off guard, and the first reaction isn't your shining moment.
So next comes escalation. When you are proactive and you intentionally sit down ahead of time, you may learn the warning signs of when it's going to escalate to the level of a blowup. Alisa shared how Tony's palms would sweat when he started getting agitated, and I shared how Nathan's jaw would set a certain way. Sometimes it's a physical sign where your body reacts.
Sometimes, it's recognizing you have different processing times - and while one may want to plow forward, the other really needs some space to process first before you go further. There are definitely times when giving space or taking a break can be a better approach than tackling the issue immediately.
One note on that, however - It's important to communicate the need for the break and commit to coming back to the conversation later to avoid miscommunications and leaving one person hanging.
Another quick opportunity for a reset before a blowup is to take a deep breath. Autopilot responses can be triggered by the nervous system, and taking a moment to breathe and pause can help you respond a bit more intentionally and thoughtfully.
Sometimes we don't think until after the blowup has happened. And this is where the cooldown is important. Again, it may be through space that the best cooling happens. It may, on the other hand, be that a cooldown is your time to touch for a little "into-me-see" to remember the person behind the conflict and the connection you want to foster.
Be honest and authentic with each other. Get to the root of the issue - not just the conflict at hand.
What Do You Own?
Make sure you're owning your part of the conflict. Are you shutting down because that's just the norm you've always done? Are you falling into victimhood? If you're hearing "Why is this always happening to me?" in your head, pay attention. It's happening because you have yet to learn the lesson in it. Look for it. It's there, and if you can't find it on your own, seek support to allow another to show you the blind spots you might not be able to find on your own. That's the power of relationships.
Your relationship with your most intimate partner is going to impact every other relationship you have -both good and bad. And how you navigate conflict there in the relationship you can't hide from will give you the tools to navigate it anywhere else. It will continue to crop up until you find the tools to move through it, so look for the ones you personally can wield.
Yes, They're Watching
When the core of the conflict message is to take a hard look at what you grew up thinking was "normal" for conflict, there is no question as to the fact that your children are being impacted by how you two argue.
If you eliminate any conflict in front of your kids, you rob them of the opportunity to learn how to navigate it in a healthy way with someone they really love and care about.
Yet if you bring every bit of conflict out in the open, it can be a more insecure situation for a child who may not grasp all aspects of what you're discussing.
Use discretion. When we share life with our children, we exemplify "functional education" and the fact that we are all learning together.
You want to be a unified front with your children, however, allowing them to be privy to more emotions than simply tranquility is a valuable gift to give your children.
Remember the Root
So often conflict can seem like it's an attack of two people against each other, when the underlying fear may be something completely different.
In the interview with Tony and Alisa, Alisa shared about a couple she just met with who had gotten into an argument over the wife spilling bacon grease. While the wife had felt attacked, the husband's true fear was actually about his children being burned by it, not that she accidentally spilled it.
Just a bit more clarification and some understanding were discovered and both had a little more grace for the other's reaction.
We may react when we're stressed over bills, finances, kids, work and more - and our reaction isn't really about the issue on the surface.
Your relationship with your most intimate partner has a ripple effect on all other aspects of life.
You carry conflict tools with you from childhood on, and at any point, you can choose to drop what isn't helping and pick up what can.
Check out Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo's newest book, The 6 Pillars of Intimacy Conflict Resolution: The Secret to Breaking the Conflict Cycle in Your Marriage, and go through the worksheet with your partner.
This relationship is too valuable to simply gloss over and keep repeating the same old patterns day in and day out. You have the power to be proactive and not let life simply happen to you. It's amazing what a bit of intentional communication can do to open doors while building bridges.
Get to know what triggers each other. Talk about what tools help you come back to your center - breathing, space, touch, etc - and create a map before you're lost in the wilderness. And remember, the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste!
*Mama Says Namaste is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.