Priya Parker has a TED Talk where she talks about how she looks at gatherings and how to make them better. She gives some useful ideas about how to change a gather of executives as well as family over a Thanksgiving dinner. She also mentions how there can be such a things as an unhealthy peace and unhealthy controversy couples relationships. Let’s spend a moment on each. Both occur in couples and couples therapy.
An unhealthy peace occurs for couple and can happen in couples therapy when one or both of the partners are not saying what needs to be said, when there are resentments that are not voiced or not voiced well, and when couples are not clear about their boundaries, desires, and expectations, to name a few areas. There are many ways to “keep the peace” but when that includes not talking about important issues it is crucial to make sure that one or both partners are not festering in some way as they hold on to the peace.
An unhealthy controversy is usually easier for couples to think about, because they often have it as a main problem. The “unhealthy” part is often the easiest part to understand of this term. Couples often quickly move to the partner’s unhealthy ways of being, but they can often also see how they act in unhealthy ways during controversy (for example, name calling, bringing up new issues, changing the issue, not listening, etc.).
Couples often, however, don’t see how controversy can be anything but unhealthy. Healthy controversy is something that can be, however, quite helpful for the couple and something that actually is stimulating. Think about it: having a controversy, a time of working (or arguing) on disagreements that would end up being productive. Really, it is something that many couples crave though they don’t really know it or think about it because they are so caught up in unhealthy controversy.
So, you can work, on your own and as a couple, on healthy peace (make sure how you are doing, make sure how your partner is doing, check for resentments, left over feelings) and on healthy controversy (don’t use any name calling, stick to one topic, don’t change the topic, listen, listen, listen). You can work on these as goals for healthy gatherings for the two of you. And if you can’t or are stuck, a couples therapist can help.
Dr. Robert G. Kraft is a career psychologist in Omaha, NE. He earned his doctorate, as well as his bachelors and masters before that, from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Has practiced in Nebraska ever since.
As well as maintaining his practice, Dr. Kraft is an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Creighton University School of Medicine, where he teaches residents about psychotherapy.