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Digital Subscriptions > Psychologies > No. 155 > War &peace

War &peace

All couples fall out, but some do it better than others. In her quest for conflict resolution, Sarah Abell spoke to Sue Johnson, founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy, who has spent 30 years helping distressed couples find their way back to love


What causes conflict in our relationships?

Arguments might appear to be about topics such as parenting, in-laws, money, chores or sex but, actually, its content isn’t the real reason for a fight. Conflict occurs when couples experience an emotional disconnection from each other.

Can you explain further?

We are bonding animals. Our brains are wired for connection and, when we sense rejection or abandonment, we respond with panic. Love asks the questions: ‘Are you there for me? Can you be trusted?’ If we believe the answers are ‘maybe’ or ‘no’, then we become distressed. We tend to focus on the conflict, but conflict is like inflammation – it is a symptom. The cause, or virus that is creating our arguments, is a lack of safe connection with a person.

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