Relationships are an essential part of life. Healthy relationships
include caring, support and respect. Unhealthy relationships may be
based on power, fear, dependence or lack of relationship skills.
We help people build and enjoy healthy relationships.
Resolve Relationship Conflicts & Triangulation
Outer conflicts often represent inner
Many people are taught to ignore or hide
conflicts rather than to acknowledge and use them. Hence conflict management
is an essential part of almost all our relationship coaching. You
and your family, friends, partner, children or any other person are unlikely to
have exactly the same goals, beliefs or values, or the same ways
to reach your goals and fulfill your values. You will have conflicts!
Goals are shaped by needs, for example food, shelter and
the importance of feeling secure. Values are standards of goodness, rightness
and preference that are shaped by beliefs. Beliefs are sentences which
feel right or correct ... yet are shaped by relationships.
Many people consider relationship triangles to describe
people who are romantically involved with two partners at the same
time. While such relationships rarely end well, other triangles enmesh children.
If adult partners use a third person as a messenger to
transmit their communications, this is called triangulation. If a child
is repeatedly forced to take the role of temporary partner or even
parent, this can result in unpleasant consequences for the whole family.
My wife would never complain
to me directly; she would complain to our oldest son,
until he told me. This kept happening
until he was diagnosed with adolescent-onset
schizophrenia and a therapist
explained triangulation to us. South Africa
When we coach people who are in conflict, we explore many types
of goals, together with the underlying values and emotions.
Useful goals are clear, specific statements of:
- what you both hope to accomplish together
- what each of you doesn't want or wants to avoid
- what each of you needs - information, conditions and
- how each of you would like the other person to
support your goals
Conflicts can weaken or strengthen a relationship. We help
people to use conflicts to support understanding and respect, rather than
allowing conflicts to support resentment and hostility.
How you deal with conflicts helps determine whether your relationships become
more or less healthy.
We coach people to solve conflicts. People who do not resolve
conflicts often build relationships based on denial, withdrawal, distraction or
endless discussions, until unresolved conflicts destroy the relationship. (If
you try to avoid managing conflicts - maybe read
Conflicts & Avoidance
Do you avoid conflicts (Let's not fight now),
do you overuse humor (You're so cute when you're angry), do
you minimize (That is not important) or do you inhibit conflicts?
(You know what will happen if we talk about that)?
We suggest that you postpone discussing conflicts if one of
you are angry, tired, or ill. It may be reasonable to defer resolving a conflict
until both of you are ready for meaningful discussions, although indefinitely
postponing conflict resolution may only delay resolution and increase suffering.
Conflicts, Denial & Diversion
Do you allow conflicts to emerge? Or do you try to prevent emergence
with an attitude that, "Everything is fine"? Do you
deny conflict by avoiding confrontation or establishing covert rules? (In a
classic denial, all members of a family, team or organization may
say: "We are fine - we have no problems.")
Some conflicts may not seem to be worthy of argument. Often
some small issue is simply a cover for a larger one. If a partner is concerned
that the other is having an affair, but avoids dealing with it, that person may
explode over some minor detail ... perhaps a towel left on the floor.
A group may agree to one person's preference or members
may take turns compromising. If the same person always agrees - or always
compromises - this may indicate denial or dependence.
Sooner or later, unsolved denial often emerges as emotional explosions.
Do you divert conflicts to other directions? Conflicts may be diverted
by distracting attention, or by attacking the person who raised
the issue. If one person says, "I don't like it when you xxx,"
the other may change the topic with: "Are you crazy, why didn't
Do you clearly express different opinions, but not find solutions?
Does everyone know what the other system members want, but do not
negotiate agreements? If you don't know how to use conflicts to
negotiate win-win solutions, systemic coaching offers you solutions.
Conflicts about who should have power over what in a
relationship are common. Instead of fighting over who controls whom, as in
military command, you can discuss and decide who can choose which aspects of
their affairs, and work cooperatively to manage the inevitable conflicts.
People with power over others are usually reluctant to
relinquish their power, while people lacking power often want changes to take
place faster than the dominant people are likely to accept. Such conflicts occur
when teenagers seek independence or when a population seeks regime change. If
the weaker people emphasize mutual benefits and developing mutually acceptable
ways of achieving their goals, they are likely to meet with more success than by
more combative or competitive approaches.
Do you all allow conflicts to emerge so that you can find
solutions? Can you all express your opinions about all conflicts?
Do you confront all the issues? Can you negotiate solutions
that are acceptable to all people involved? Contact us to change.
Do you want relationship coaching or systemic coach
Do you want to resolve complex
Online Life Coaching for Conflict Resolution
Conflict & Triangulation
In our systems coaching, triangulation describes
a situation of two people in conflict who, rather than resolving their
disagreement, involve or enmesh other people, usually in an attempt
to avoid their conflict or their emotions. In family systems, a triangulated
person is often a child or a childish adult, who may then express chronic
negative emotions, behavior problems or psychosomatic symptoms.
Triangulation can prevent conflicts being resolved.
Triangulated children or teenagers who accept their parents'
discontent may develop behavior problems. See
emotional incest and
Triangulation can also occur when three or more people
discuss sensitive issues. In marriage counseling or couple coaching, for
example, if a counselor or coach favors one partner more than the other,
the coach and the favored partner may perceive the other partner as a
scapegoat or as an object of concern, and perhaps respond to that partner
as if to a difficult child. This leads to chaos.
People in conflict may reduce emotional tension by focusing on
a third person, but if they do so, they avoid resolving their conflict and may
miss opportunities to increase their intimacy or effectiveness. Whether the
third person accepts pity or blame from the others, or resents it, or fights it,
the reaction of the third person may be interpreted by the others as evidence
for their continued prejudice.
Triangulation in Marriage Counseling & Couple Coaching
If one person coaches or counsels a couple, then there are usually
two of the same sex, and one other; and two potential male-female couples.
Helping professionals risk identity loss in these meetings.
They risk losing themselves in fantasies of brotherhood, sisterhood,
partnership or parenthood, etc.
- Sometimes a marital therapist or marriage counselor
likes or prefers one partner,
and may blame the other partner for the couple's
- Sometimes a couple coach is overly sympathetic
to one partner, and conspires
with the other partner on, "How can we best
look after this weak person / victim?"
- Sometimes a health professional is attracted
to one partner, and provokes the partners
to separate, perhaps hoping to have a relationship with
the preferred partner.
So much suffering is avoidable. Many partners avoid
dealing with conflicts until they are in crisis. We sometimes provide
two-on-two coaching to couples and partners. This takes more work but
less time as it can be very efficient. Neither partner feels
outnumbered by the opposite sex. Having two coaches
working for you minimizes any risk of triangulation.
Common Mistakes in Conflict Resolution
Can you both remain emotionally mature? If so, you have a basis
for a healthy relationship. If not ... well you'll get lost again and again
until you mature ... or until you give up. Some common mistakes are:
- Getting lost in negative emotions ...
- Being inflexible ... My way or the highway!
- Believing your partner must lose for you to win ...
- Opening another conflict before resolving the first one
- Not having enough information ...
Why didn't you tell me?
- Clinging to one perspective ...
Your point of view is wrong!
- Focusing only on what you may lose ...
Don't leave me alone!
After our coaching, you may not look at relationships the
same way again. You will see the effects of immaturity,
transferences and projections. You will see that many people hurt
others with good intentions
and you will see the consequences of abuse, betrayal and ignorance.
Contact us for help improving your relationships.
Online Life Coaching, Counseling & Soulwork Therapy
I thought you were just
another therapist - but you were not just. Not even. Not only.
Plagiarism is theft. Copyright ©
Martyn Carruthers 2001-2013 All rights reserved.