Relational Tools for Working With Mild-to-Moderate Couple Violence: Patterns of Unresolved Conflict and Pathways to Resolution

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Abstract

This article offers psychologists an insider's view of couples' experiences with partner violence. Eleven couples seen at a university-based family and marriage clinic provided data on escalation of violence; 10 provided data on de-escalation, with 8 common to both analyses. In the Patterns and Pathways intervention, the couples first detailed their patterns of unresolved conflict and described barriers that impeded their willingness to resolve their conflicts peacefully. The progressive stages of (a) First Signs of Conflict, (b) Stirring the Pot, and (c) Point of No Return repeat themselves if couples fail to find alternative routes to conflict resolution. In the intervention's Pathways phase, the couples examined their strategies for interrupting these sequences and created nonviolent pathways to constructive resolution, which included (a) taking responsibility for self, (b) demonstrating respect for one's partner, and (c) making efforts to improve communication. Psychologists can glean new perspectives from this intervention by understanding how internal experiences influence aggression in high-conflict couples, and clinicians may use it to assist couples in changing their conflict resolution methods from escalating and abusive to more constructive and respectful interactions.

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