So you are in a cycle of escalating conflict with a partner and find yourself behaving badly. Also, you are being subjected to your partners' defenses regularly. Neither of you feel like the conflicts are productive, but instead feel like you are just going in circles. Thus, you both need to set some boundaries around what is acceptable behavior when engaged in a disagreement. Consider overt behaviors, tone of voice, particular phrases, gestures, etc that trigger or sooth you and your partner. If you don't know, go ahead and guess...you can change it later when you have more information to work with. Do this exercise apart and then take to your couples therapist for a discussion for best results.
1. During a conflict, it is not acceptable for me to (low road):
2. During a conflict, it is acceptable for me to (high road):
3. During a conflict it is not acceptable for you to (low road):
4. During conflict, it is acceptable for you to (high road):
CONGRATULATIONS! You have set some boundaries around conflict withyour partner. Remember that you cannot make your partner behave along the high road but you can remind them of your boundaries from an "I message" perspective. You may not be able to always get yourself on the high road and respect your own or your partner's boundary, especially early on, but you are working on it.
SOURCE: The Couples Institute, www.couplesinsitute.com
© The Couples InstitutePeter Pearson, Ph.D & Ellyn Bader, Ph.D