For a couple to get out of the cycle of ‘she’s a bitch, he’s a bastard’ it is important they begin to understand the context within which conflict and methods or dealing with them arise.
Helping them to see conflict itself as a completely natural and necessary part of evolution is often enlightening (Crum, Thomas F (1987) The magic of conflict; Cornelius, H and Faire (2006) Everyone can win). However, it is also important to point out the cultural norms that fly in the face of this understanding, whereby we were all somewhat brought up with a notion that if there is conflict in a relationship then there is something going wrong.
The important corollary here is the similarity with our global understanding that grieving loss is a healthy thing, while the cultural perspective most of us were brought up with was a battler mentality definition of consoling – ‘no point crying over spilt milk, she’ll be right, don’t worry about it, big boys and girls don’t cry, build a bridge, harden the hell up and get over it’. All the opposite of what I would call a healthy relationship to sadness.
My definition of consoling is ‘permission and encouragement for grieving (being sad about, crying over) or whatever feeling that might need to be expressed’. A similar relationship of permission and encouragement for the processes of conflict is required if a long term, mutually beneficial, relationship is to remain sustainable.