Understanding the sources of conflict in your relationship is one step towards resolving the differences between you. When we can get the problems out in the open and talk about them objectively, we can often find the solutions. Use the list below as a starting point for shedding some light on your relationship conflicts, which may now be hidden but which, with some thought, can become known and talked about constructively.

• Look for themes in your relationship conflicts, problems that keep reappearing time and time again. Focus on identifying the underlying theme in most of your arguments. Arguments usually focus on the surface aspects of the underlying conflict. Your goal here is to define the underlying conflict.

• Have these themes appeared in your other relationships with other people – both with friends and perhaps with other partners in the past?

• Can you identify your part in contributing to these themes? Every relationship takes two people and both contribute to the difficulties. What is your part? (This may be a hard question to answer since we tend to see the problems as lying within our partner rather than within ourselves.)

• What are the positive qualities in your partner that you may have forgotten about as time has gone by? Can you begin to define your partner in those terms again?

• What are the negative qualities in your partner that cause conflicts between you? Does your partner agree that these qualities are true? Has your partner changed over time, gradually starting to agree that the negative qualities may be true? Or, conversely, does your partner insist that these negative qualities are not true?

• Do you focus mostly on these negative qualities when you think about your partner?

• Is there anything from your past – from childhood on through adulthood – which reminds you of the conflicts between you and your partner? (This may be a clue regarding your unresolved conflicts which are the source of projections.)

• Does your partner project unresolved conflicts onto you? (These are probably easier to see than your projections onto your partner.)

Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT

San Diego Couples and Family Therapy serves the surrounding areas of Sorrento Valley Road as La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway, University City and Escondido.