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  • wed-default-icon1According to the American Psychological Association, “40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce.” Twelve weeks from now I will be getting married; therefore this statistic could be discouraging. My mother married once before my dad, and she often says, “No one enters into a marriage thinking they will get a divorce.” I have thought a lot this week about what having a good marriage means and why a couple might resort to divorce, and I compiled a list below.

    • Communication- Majority of the reasons that I will provide for why couples divorce, all come back to communication. I learned in school that when people stop talking that is when the issues arise. People are not mind readers, so if a couple stops talking with one another, there is no way of knowing what their partner is thinking. Lack of communication is a breeding ground for conflict; therefore, I have always stressed open communication with my fiancé. We make a point to catch up on one another’s day, talk issues through, and constantly keep communication channels open.
    • Trust- A lack of trust can destroy a relationship. While I recognize trust also requires a certain level of vulnerability, and if someone has hurt you in the past, this can be especially difficult. A marriage will only be successful if you trust your partner. I took a lot more time to trust than my fiancé because I was hurt in the past, but I found that once I allowed myself to be exposed, our relationship ran much smoother.
    • Rushing- Many couples may get divorced because they rushed into marriage. Women worry about their biological clock, men may feel aging pressure as well. Couples do not take the time to get to know one another and take the position that they will figure it out as they go, which isn’t always the best route to take. Although, I’m sure there are exceptions. I think it is important to understand the person you are committing to and not shy away from the tough topics. When my fiancé and I say, “I do” we will have been dating eight years, we started when we were seventeen and eighteen. We essentially had to grow up together, and we each had to adjust to one another changing, as neither of us are the same people we were as teenagers.
    • Expectations- Humans have expectations for people and their relationships. When a significant other, the relationship, or both, don’t live up to the hopes placed on them, things fall apart rather quickly. My fiancé and I have spent a lot of time discussing this topic. We both feel a way to avoid failing to live up to standards, is to be confident with who we are as individuals, and to check consistently in on one another’s needs and wants.

    While there are more than four reasons why people may resort to divorce, these were the ones I thought to be the most important. My fiancé and I are not, like my mother said, entering into matrimony with divorce in mind. We are not even entering into marriage thinking it is an option. He and I have talked extensively on this topic, and we both established that should we start having issues we will continuously communicate and if need be, attend counseling. While it may seem as though we have a negative outlook, I think it is always best to have a game plan for future events that could occur.


    Abigail Clark, M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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  • cat fightI joined a graduate chapter of a very prestigious women’s organization. I was extremely active and financially supportive during my tenure. So you can imagine my shock when two ladies approached me at a group event one day and tried to get all cat fight and “I don’t like you just because” on me. I went from all smiles to being very disappointed about their poor behavior. It was at that moment that I realized that these women were actually trying to bully me.

    When you belong to a prestigious organization there are rules that govern a member’s actions and interactions. So to keep in line with those rules, I was lady-like in the face of their bullying behavior. I really wanted to spew out the salt fire pumice that laid on the tip of my tongue onto them but instead, I slowed down the very essence of time by using the fullness of my dark brown eyes to pause the moment. So with a cold hard stare, I slowly invited them to enjoy the rest of the event.

    This action did de-escalate the tension in the room and it did give me space to respond in a centered, grounded and empowered manner. I guess Louise and William Senft would say that I was “Being Relational with a Bully”. I know that this seems counter intuitive, but that technique actually worked. After I de-escalated the situation, I knew that I needed to gain perspective of what needed to be done next. I also pulled a little real-life wisdom from my big brother, Mirum.

    Now my brother, who was an amazing fashion designer, was extremely funny and wise. During Fashion Week at his college he would often use me as a model for his clothing line. Before hitting the runway he would whisper “Don’t forget to flair your skirt honey.” Let’s envision that the skirt represented the national organization and the chapter represented the pockets that held the monthly dues. Hold that picture in your mind, now visualize that the members in good standing (like me) are the coins and the members acting poorly are the holes in the pockets of the skirt.

    Expanding this conflict allowed me to see the financial interest of both the chapter and the national organization. At first, I just saw the ladies trying to be systematically mean toward me and others, but when I expanded the conflict, I noticed how their bullying behavior hurt our chapter as a whole. As a result, I took my grievance and documentation along with my account of my volunteer and financial support to the chapter president and asked; “Is this type of behavior reflective of this chapter?” Long story short, the “cat fight” for me was over! From that point forward those girls were busy with a whole new set of issues that eventually involved them, the chapter president and the national office.
    In the end, my response was effective, but it also was a process. If you can keep the following tools in mind, you can create enough space and perspective to work on a possible solution for you too. Those tools are:

    Deescalate the situation the best you can. I used a pause and stare.
    Take time to respond, meaning just pause to think before you speak
    Expand your view of the conflict. This means to do your best to identify the interest of all parties involved and look at the whole picture. Take a moment to objectively look at the entire situation.

    Until next time, happy living everybody

    Lauren Thompson Andrews
    Graduate Student Intern
    University of Baltimore – Conflict Negotiation/ Conflict Management

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  • brainearserPrior to becoming privy to the constructive ways to approach, manage and resolve conflict, I handled disputes in the same manner of my parents. My parents always confronted conflict and to get their points across to one another they would yell. When I was younger, I promised myself that I would handle conflicts differently when I was in a relationship. However, when my fiancé and I got into our very first fight, what did I do? I confronted him, and I yelled. My fiancé did not know how to handle this situation and recoiled because he grew up in a different setting, where his parents did not confront their conflict head on and never yelled at one another.

    I observed something about how we tackled conflicts from this situation; everyone has, what I like to call a default setting. A person’s default setting is how you instinctively respond to the conflict that typically mirrors your parents or the environment where you were raised. Anyone can change his or her settings with hard work though it may be difficult at first. Once I started in the Negotiations and Conflict Management program at the University of Baltimore, I began to incorporate the tools and skills I learned in class and applied them to my life.

    What can you do to change your default setting?

    • Acknowledge that you have a default setting and be honest with yourself about your conflict management shortcomings. We like to deny certain truths and put the blame on others regarding our inadequacies. When I would shout at my fiancé, saying it was his fault I was yelling. If I were honest with myself, I would have recognized that I resembled my parent’s way of handling conflict. I chose to yell because that was the only way I thought he would hear me.
    • Clear up misunderstandings by checking assumptions. We all see, hear, and interpret the world differently. We make assumptions about what is or isn’t being said and rarely ask for clarification. My parents could have easily resolved many of their arguments if they had asked for clarification and not assumed. Similarly, in my relationship, we would jump to conclusions or make assumptions about what the other person was saying or thinking which caused most of our disputes. Now, before I get upset I will say, “When you said you would take out the trash in a little bit, what did you mean by a little bit?”
    • Reframe and state your emotions. Emotions are what cause conflicts to escalate. My parent’s arguments were highly emotional because both of them would be angry, annoyed, hurt, etc. My fiancé and I’s arguments were always emotional because I can be overly sensitive. I would yell because I was mad, or cry because I was frustrated. In the book Difficult Conversations, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen, I learned “I feel” statements. Using these statements helps you to acknowledge and take ownership of the emotion rather than placing the blame on the other person. Now I say, “ I feel frustrated that the trash hasn’t been taken out” rather than yelling, “You said you would take the trash out over an hour ago.”
    • Don’t automatically get defensive. Many times, we anticipate a fight, so we begin to put the boxing gloves on before we have the conversation. My dad dawdles when he knows my mom is mad, and he has to go home to face her. Anytime my fiancé and I were going to have a serious discussion; I would anticipate what he would say and plan my comebacks. Now, I go into every situation where a conflict could occur, reminding myself that we are teammates, not opponents.

    While I do not believe our default setting entirely goes away, with perseverance we can challenge our default settings and create better and healthier habits to address conflict.

    Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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Welcome to Texas Conflict Coach®. I am your host Pattie Porter, conflict resolution expert, mediator, conflict coach, facilitator and speaker. - Read More

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