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PREP Inc. has identified the four most common negative patterns in conflict resolution. If they go unchecked they will destroy our relationships.


These happen when one person assumes that the motives of the other person are more negative than intended. This can be a very destructive, negative pattern in a relationship, and it will make any conflict or disagreement harder to deal with constructively. Negative interpretations are very destructive, in part because they are very hard to detect and counteract after they become cemented into the fabric of a relationship.


This occurs when partners respond back and forth negatively to each other, continually upping the ante so conditions get worse and worse. Often, negative comments spiral into increasing anger and frustration. Couples who are happy now and likely to stay that way are less prone to escalation; and if they start to escalate, they are able to stop the negative process before it erupts into a full blown, nasty fight.


This is a pattern in which one partner subtly or directly puts down the thoughts, feelings, or character of the other. Invalidation can take many forms. Another subtle form of invalidation occurs when you are expecting praise for some positive action that is ignored by your partner, while some minor problem is highlighted.


A pattern in which one partner shows an unwillingness to get into or stay with important discussions. Withdrawal can be as obvious as getting up and leaving the room or as subtle as “turning off” or “shutting down” during an argument. The withdrawer often tends to get quiet during an argument, or may agree quickly to some suggestion just to end the conversation, with no real intention of following through.

For help with these and other communication issues, visit us at Promising Horizons Counseling & Assessment.

Call 208-350-0330 to set up an appointment or to get a schedule of future seminar dates.


Gregory M. Deitchler MA, L.M.F.T., L.P.C.

These Danger Signs were adapted from PREP Education Products, Inc. 1996. Fighting for Your Marriage,