Sunday 13 October 2019

Having rows with your partner? This book might save the day

Most common relationship issues can be overcome with these tips and a little bit of effort, writes Arlene Harris

Marriage expert Dr Colm O'Connor
Marriage expert Dr Colm O'Connor

Arlene Harris

The path to true love is never smooth. But why is it that some people seem to fight about everything and others head for the hills at the first sign of trouble?

Clinical psychologist and family therapist Dr Colm O'Connor has spent the last 25 years working with couples and trying to help them find out how to avoid arguments and resolve petty quarrels.

In his new book The Courage to Love, he advises on how to survive and thrive within a loving union by relying on the good old-fashioned traits of patience, honesty and humour and by realising that although men and women have different qualities, their relationship needs are similar.

"I have been through the highs and lows of both marriage and separation and know – from my personal and professional experience – the kinds of issues and anxieties that are evoked in family relationships," he says.

"I examined more than 300 cases of couples seeking counselling and looked closely at the complaints of both men and women. The general themes of these complaints were very similar.

"Up to 50pc of women in a distressed marriage want safety and respect in their relationship and not to be subjected to abuse, aggression or violence," he says.

Interestingly, men's top concern was to repair the damage they have done through abuse and disrespect."

But some couples can slowly kill their relationship by engaging in a constant stream of trivial arguments and Dr O'Connor says people need to recognise this as being a problem.

"Most people who are having serious problems in their partnerships have difficulty in understanding why they are happening," he says. "In high-conflict relationships you have two people who continually fight for control.

"Realise that you cannot listen to your spouse's complaints and defend yourself at the same time," he advises.

Research suggests that there are a number of preventative activities. The primary one is to maintain a friendship because in the relationships which survive, friendship usually endures.

The second quality associated with couples who stick together is that they know the difference between solvable acute problems and chronic permanent ones. Happy elderly couples usually have developed a sense of humour regarding their partner's foibles.

The third quality is the ability of these couples to repair and recover after fights or disagreements.

So I would encourage people to find out three easy-to-do small things which would make their partner feel more loved and cared for and then just do them regularly.

Dr O'Connor – who co-founded the Association for Agency-based Counselling in Ireland – says although it might be hard to admit a weakness in your relationship, if you are not happy, the only way to improve things is to admit that something isn't working and for both parties to work together to repair it.

The Courage to Love is published by Gill and Macmillan and costs €14.99

Irish Independent

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