The intent to learn in conflict leads to new understanding of yourself and the other person, which results in resolution. On the other hand, the intention to protect with controlling behavior generally leads to escalation of the conflict and prevents resolution.
It was obvious that both Lillian and Lawrence were intent on controlling rather than learning. Both were explaining, defending, lecturing, and doing everything else they could to prove that they were right and the other was wrong.
It didn't matter how major or minor the issue, they bickered over everything, and they were both tired of it. That's why they were consulting with me. They let me know that they were considering separation due to the constant bickering.
In the session, I asked them to pick an issue about which they often argue. They picked sex. Each person stated their personal issue: In their case, Lillian is rarely interested in sex, and Lawrence feels sexually rejected.
We started to explore this issue, and each time they started to bicker, I stopped them. I asked them both to soften, open themselves to learning, and become curious about themselves and each other rather than continue to argue, explain, defend, and judge.
They both noticed how hard it was for them to stay open and curious. They both realized how much they were each prioritizing being "right" or "winning" rather than prioritizing resolution and learning.
At this point, we stopped exploring the issue of sex. That was just a tool we used to get to the real issue. Then we began to explore why being right was more important to each of them than being open to learning. Here are some of the false beliefs they were each holding on to, which made them feel desperate to be right: