The High-Conflict Couple Book Summary - The High-Conflict Couple Book explained in key points
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The High-Conflict Couple summary

Alan E. Fruzzetti

A Dialectical Behavior Therapy Guide to Finding Peace, Intimacy & Validation

4.4 (187 ratings)
18 mins
Table of Contents

    The High-Conflict Couple
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    Being mindful of your emotional state helps you avoid unnecessary fights.

    Think back to the last big fight you had with your partner. Do you remember what caused it, and the emotions you felt leading up to it? 

    While it’s easy to recall being angry or upset, identifying the feelings themselves can be really hard. We all know that emotions are a central part of relationship conflict, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is when they get the better of you and you end up saying something you regret, or find yourself in an argument that’s going nowhere. 

    Because as important as emotions are, our understanding of them is often surprisingly limited. And it doesn’t take much to knock us off balance.

    The key message here is: Being mindful of your emotional state helps you avoid unnecessary fights.

    Everybody has a baseline emotional state where they’re able to think clearly and communicate well. Emotional arousal occurs when something knocks you out of this baseline. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – in fact, research shows that small to moderate amounts of stress keep you alert and improve your performance at tasks.

    But, once you move past this moderate level, performance gets considerably worse. Some people reach this point faster than others, but the end result is the same for everyone: instead of thinking clearly, your only goal becomes reducing your feelings of negative arousal.

    In relationships, high emotions affect your ability to communicate well. And once you’ve been knocked off your baseline by negative feelings, your thinking becomes more downbeat and judgmental. 

    Say you’ve been looking forward to spending more time with your partner, but he comes home late. Instead of being clear about how his actions make you feel, if you’re in a state of emotional arousal you might make a nasty comment about him never being around. This would probably knock your partner off his baseline, and the rest is ugly conflict.

    Luckily, there are ways to train yourself to stay balanced. One of the most effective is mindfulness, or being more aware of how you’re feeling. In other words, if you can recognize when you’re reaching emotional arousal, you’ll be much better at managing it. 

    A great way to practice is by learning to describe your feelings without judgment. Ask yourself: What’s going on? What physical sensations am I feeling? This will help lower your arousal and put you in a state where you can assess the situation without creating unnecessary conflict.

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    What is The High-Conflict Couple about?

    The High-Conflict Couple (2007) is a guide to overcoming the common relationship pitfalls that lead to conflict and animosity. Drawing upon years of psychology research and therapy experience, Alan E. Fruzzetti explains where conflict comes from and how it can be reduced.

    Who should read The High-Conflict Couple?

    • Couples tired of fighting with each other
    • People who struggle to accept the things they cannot change
    • Anyone wanting to be more present in their own life

    About the Author

    Alan E. Fruzzetti, PhD, is associate professor of psychology and director of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Research Program at the University of Nevada, Reno. He provides extensive training, supervision, and consultation for DBT treatment programs and DBT research in the United States and abroad. Fruzzetti is also research director and member of the board of directors of the National Educational Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder and a co-developer of the Family Connections Program. 

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