Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 16 News List

Love endures with a 'good' row

For a successful relationship, counselors are suggesting couples should learn some rules about how to get things off their chests

DPA , Bonn, Germany

This couple is having a heated exchange of opinions -- and that may be a healthy thing to keep their relationship a vital one, experts say.


Even happy couples have a good row from time to time. A lasting relationship often depends on the ability to manage a conflict without allowing it to destroy mutual love and respect, according to leading psychologists.

"Having a row belongs to a healthy relationship just like laughing and dreaming," says Berlin psychologist and communications trainer Frank Naumann.

In his bestseller Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, the American therapist John Gray pinpoints money, sex, decisions, time schedules, values, child care and dishwashing as the main points causing a squabble.

Psychologist Monika Rahn from Bonn says more men than women tend to sit out uncomfortable situations "by for instance disappearing into the cellar or behind the computer."

Psychology professor Nina Heinrichs from the Technical University of Braunschweig says this strategy by men has its advantages because it makes them feel better physically.

"With women it is the opposite. With more unresolved disputes and hidden conflicts the worse they feel physically and psychologically," she says.

But for both partners it is a problem if negative feelings are not spoken about. If a delicate issue is addressed in a tense atmosphere this often leads to escalation.

"Partners scream at each other and exchange accusations. Or one of them starts crying, mostly the woman, and the other leaves the room, mostly the man,"?according to Heinrichs.

But women too have to accept that the partner has the right to avoid speaking in an intractable situation, psychologist Rahn says.

"Even if criticism is justified they have to understand that the partner cannot be responsible for one's own happiness in life."

Psychologist Naumann warns of typical squabbles where partners compete against each other with clever arguments.

"Everybody has experienced such a situation, where especially good arguments can lead to even more irritation. The only way out is to find a solution with which both can live."

Psychologist Heinrich advises people to describe a concrete situation, their feelings of that moment and to express their wishes. Therapist Rahn says that "anything older than six weeks should not be an issue."

The listener should with gestures and body posture indicate to the speaker that he or she is really attentive and, with his or her own words, repeat what the other said. Sometimes, according to Rahn, a question like, "What do you mean?" is helpful.

But marriage therapist Michael Mary says such rules of the game cannot always be upheld in an emotionally tense


"Sometimes a real row brings forth information that would not normally come to the surface," he said.

Communication rules can help, he says, if one of the partners has trouble expressing his or her needs.

"But most of the time a dispute cannot be kept under control. It is terrible to look at everything under a therapeutic angle," he said.

Psychologist Rahn concedes that tips for improved partner communication has its limits.

"It all comes down to mutual regard and respect. Sometimes this is only possible if one intensively studies ones own personality. In some cases the relationship is simply over," he said.

Real poison for partnerships are violence, addiction, withdrawal into work, extra-marital relationships and the expectation that the partner should in principle first change herself or himself, Rahn says.

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