One of the key concepts I explain is that conflict is like an iceberg. There is a small portion of the conflict that is visible; above the water, the part that pertains to what we are fighting about in that moment. Beneath this there is a much bigger force influencing the conflict that remains unseen and unaddressed. Things like our unmet or unexpressed needs in the relationship, our family history and personal triggers, or building resentment towards our partner all compose this larger piece. In other words, couples aren’t just fighting about the dirty dishes. Couples are in conflict as a way to get the underwater problems addressed, or their desired needs met.
When we make the mistake of just focusing on the surface conflict, we miss the potential to create a greater understanding and emotional connection with our partners. In order to shift this I encourage clients to begin to check in with their emotional states, locate their most valued needs in their relationship, and notice the moments of conflict when they might be longing to express something deeper.