Dear Mel & Rene…

March 6, 2015

1) My spouse and I argue but we never seem to resolve the issue. We simply get tired of arguing and stop.  How do we resolve the conflict that we are having in a healthy manner?

Mel – What you have described is what is known as a “circular argument.”  As the name implies, the parties simply talk in circles and never resolve the issue.  This happens because neither party to the argument is talking about how they feel.  One talks about how they feel by initiating phrases that begin with: “I feel­­­­­__________.(Fill in the blank with an emotion such as “sad, mad, scared, etc.)  When attempting to resolve conflict, most of us use statements that begin with “you.”  “You did this, you said that; you always; you never.”  Beginning a statement with “you” will put the other party on the defensive.  Once on the defensive, they will dig in and simply try to protect themselves and their ego.  At this point, the issue of how either party feels is lost in the attempt to protect self.

Rene- Dr. Gary Chapman suggests a very effective technique for avoiding circular arguments. It is the XYZ theory.  You can address a concern with your spouse by saying, “In X situation, when you do or say Y, it makes me feel Z”.  For example, When I am talking to you and your focus is on the television, it makes me feel angry. This technique helps you to ensure that you are sharing your feelings about the situation with your spouse, which makes conflict resolution easier.

2) I just do not feel “connected” to my spouse. What can I do?

Rene – Often the lack of feeling “connected” is caused by the fact that you are not speaking each other’s love languages.  In Dr. Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages he reveals that there are 5 primary love languages: Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Quality Time.  In order for you and your mate to truly feel connected, you must fill each other’s “love tank”.  This is accomplished by consistently speaking each other’s primary love language.


Mel – Within all of us, there is an innate desire to emotionally attach to significant others in our lives.  When couples argue, the arguments are not really about the issues.  At the core of the argument is one or both spouses’ desire to feel connected to their mate.  They are arguing because the connection is missing.  Arguments are the delivery system used by a mate who is desperately saying to the other:  “I need for you to hear me.  I desire that you be here for me emotionally.  I want you to be a ‘safe haven’ for me, a place where I can go and feel safe, validated and affirmed.”  Therefore, when a mate speaks the other’s primary love language, the hurting spouse finds comfort in their mate’s attempt to emotionally connect with them in the way that they, the hurting spouse, needs.