Often in my work I see couples locked into bitter hatred of each other. It becomes vengeful with neither party remembering who started the war but both parties keeping on fighting it.
I find that it nearly always helps to introduce a couple of circuit-breakers. Firstly, I ask couples to simply do several un-solicited acts of kindness every week for their partner and, in return for the partner to acknowledge the act with softness, friendliness and grace.
Then, I ask the couple to ban all bickering and poor behaviour (like sulking, ‘huffing and puffing’ in exasperation, being rude, yelling or inserting hidden ‘barbs’ into the conversation). Instead, both parties must follow the rules, by communicating in a civilised, well-mannered, friendly and helpful manner – irrespective of how they are ‘feeling’.
I emphasise that it is fine to disagree on issues, but both parties must try and resolve their differences through civilised and rational discussion no matter what. It can be intense, but it must always be disciplined.
These changes in behaviour, almost immediately increase goodwill and start to open the couple up to listening properly and resolving big differences through reasoned and cooperative debate. It makes all the difference to have a little kindness and help inserted into any relationship …