How can couples fight fairly? Video Blog

Warning: The content of this video is not meant to replace actual counseling experience.

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How couples can fight fair

by Nathan Chua

If there is one thing that can be named as something that is certain to happen among couples, it is conflict.  There is a familiar quip among those in the helping business, that people will not hesitate to spend millions for a wedding, but can’t seem to fork out a few thousands for therapy.  Couples are mostly unaware of this absurdity.  They prepare for an elaborate wedding ceremony, that has little to no consequence on the long-term health of their relationship.

Anyway, since it is no longer a question of whether conflicts will arise or not, it is a matter of how such disagreements can draw two people together, rather than drive them apart.

Here are what come to mind:

Be factual, not historical

Yes, it is unfair for anyone in a relationship to keep bringing past hurts to spite the other.  Remember, I added the qualifier, “To spite the other.”  Please note though that it is not always wrong to raise past hurts.  However, airing those concerns at the outset, will mean you don’t have to bring them up in the future.

Mind reading vs. expressing desires

I have seen this play out in the counseling room countless times.  Couples feel uncomfortable asking for what they want.  In their minds, their partners should already know without being told.  On top of this, they are just as uncomfortable when their partners do the very thing they ask for, thinking it is contrived and insincere.

Don’t be afraid to say what you want and what you need.  You will have differences in the ways you express and receive love.  Try to be open, honest and assertive.

Demanding instead of wishing

When you voice out what you want, make sure to express it as a wish, rather than a demand.  Unfortunately, this does not always work when there is so much contempt built up.  I recommend doing this with a counselor, who can help you express your wishes and be heard.

Overgeneralizations vs. specificity

Words like, “always” and “never,” normally arouse anger or defensiveness in your partner.  Be specific.  Try to focus on the act that you wish did not happen, for these acts don’t usually happen, “always.”

Denial vs. ownership

This is one of the most critical skills that couples need to learn.  Without this, couples will be locked in an unending blame game, trying to win a battle to determine who started it all.

Ownership gives your partner a sign that you are mature enough to acknowledge your imperfections.  Denial will drive you further into fierce arguments.  Accept your humanity by knowing you both have a role in your struggles.

For a last word, understand that conflicts are not to be avoided.  In fact, they should be welcomed.  To use a rather crude analogy, boxers are in the end expected to go up the ring and fight.  However, they are also expected to do so under rules that would make it fair.

In relationships, fighting can be healthy, only if it is done fairly.

How do you survive infidelity? Video Version

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How do you survive infidelity?

by Nathan Chua

We often hear from different sources how cases of infidelity have risen in recent times.  In the Philippines, there is the added pressure for couples living in distant locations around the world.  Millions of Filipino families fight loneliness and leave loved ones behind for contractual work overseas.

To start off, it is critical to know the motivations behind indiscretions that can happen without warning.  In my experience, affairs are not consciously pursued by the erring party.  Often, people just find themselves caught up in situations when their commitments to their partners are at a low point, while they happen to meet someone interesting, or more often, someone interested.

The manner of discovery can also play a role.  In our technological world, it is much easier for people to get firsthand accounts of flirtatious exchanges through any of the various social media networks.  They witness the whole affair from its inception, which could have been unlikely if the technology were not available.

An affair or affairs will alter the roles that each party plays in the relationship.  Upon discovery or confession, the offended party will naturally feel a mix of emotions.  There will be anger, hurt, betrayal and suspicion.  The erring party on the other hand, will primarily experience guilt and shame.  The couple then assumes roles of one being an inquisitor, and the other, a defender.

The frequent result is a chase.  The hurt party will be out for revenge and begin wanting to ask a barrage of questions to appease agitated and painful feelings.  In other words, the offended party is on the attack mode.  The transgressor however, would want nothing less than to put it all behind them.  There’s confusion as to why one sincere and heartfelt apology does not seem enough.  The transgressor will be in escape mode.

There goes the dance of a relationship in terrible distress at the moment that the affair is unraveled.  They never seem to meet some place where they can discuss matters rationally and without major altercations.  The affair is now taking its toll on the relationship, making it feel like the couple is slowly drifting towards indifference, and ultimately an end.

The key here is knowing the true needs of each one in the aftermath of an affair.  The aggrieved party needs above all else, reassurance that the whole misstep is temporary, and would not linger any longer.  What they crave for are words of assurance and empathy towards their searing pain.

For the offending party, however, his or her needs may have to be put on hold.  With intervention and a display of genuine contriteness, he or she may eventually get the chance to air grievances which could have contributed to the misstep.

In the immediate aftermath of the discovery, there is an imbalance in the relationship.  The aggrieved party would tend to take moral ascendancy.  There is a one up one down relationship.  The goal of therapy is to get them back to a relationship where they see themselves on equal footing.  For a relationship that has lasted for so long, is still certainly worth another try.