So why is relationship skills so important in the management of depression and anxiety?
Relationship conflict is a common source of stress for everyone including people with depression and anxiety and hence, part of the management of depression and anxiety is to work on the understanding of relationship conflicts and how to resolve it through conflict resolution.
How does one do this?
First of all, I usually like to talk about the "natural history" of a relationship. When two people from a different background, a different family culture, a different past and of course, with different core values, come together, it is not difficult to predict that there is going to be some conflict at some point in time.
When there is conflict, three possible outcome can eventuate.
- If the two people value their relationship enough and in addition, have the skills to resolve their conflict, then conflict resolution will occur and their relationship will grow and become stronger.
- If the two people do not value their relationship enough and combined with the lack of skills in conflict resolution, then this will lead to a separation.
- Now the next one is a common scenario that I see in my practice and that is, when two people value their relationship enough but do not have the skills to resolve their conflict. Conflict here is not being resolved but are "swept under the bed" so to speak. The problem with this strategy is that at some point, the value of the relationship goes down and the conflict or baggage in the relationship rises to the point where the "value" is less than the "pain". At this point, the two people will be forced to work through their conflict or to separate.
Part of conflict resolution is to be non judgemental of each other's core values, allow each other to feel what they feel without being judged, to validate each other feelings but then, committed to work towards a common goal. This is in essence what "true" compromising is. Of course, this is not easy but it is a skill that can be learnt. I encourage all sufferers who have relationship difficulties to consider seeing a good relationship counsellor or a psychologist to work through their relationship issues.
In Australia, you can also contact Relationship Australia and see if they can help you.
Dr Vin Tran
MBBS FRACGP University of Qld