In a recent article about changes in relationship By Sara Polanchek and Sidney Shaw (Counseling Today, December 2015 – Ten intimate relationship research findings every counselor should know) I was slightly surprised by some statistics. For example, cohabitation before marriage was reported as 60% today as compared to 5% in 1960. Perhaps most surprising was the statistic that 41% of babies are now born out of wedlock compared to 5% in the 1960’s. These changes signal many subsequent changes in relationship patterns both in terms of couples and what families look like. Complex co-parenting relationships have evolved as the number of nontraditional families rise. Part of the changes relate to conflict in relationship.
The authors suggest alternative views of conflict can help sustain relationship and point to the inevitability of conflict in relationship. They identify the need to solve all conflict as a problem. They substantiate this view with research from the Gottman Institute stating that, “ Couples who approach all problems with a ‘solve it’ mentality will find themselves in gridlock- terrain that is wrought with frustration and angst”. Instead they suggest that therapists who work with couples focus on dialogue around the problem that encourages compassion and empathy, a design for safety well know to the IMAGO model.