Kent realized the grill was low on propane gas, so he brought the propane canister from the shed into the house and put in at the bottom of the stairs. Trish was uncomfortable with the propane inside the house and told Kent so. Kent said it was safe. They briefly argued about it‘s safety and Kent just walked away.
Trish brought this issue to the next couples counseling session. She was somewhat embarrassed to bring up what she thought was a small issue, but I could sense how annoyed she still was.
I had them redo the conversation with each other. Trish said, “I’m uncomfortable with flammable gas in the house. I don’t feel safe.” Kent said, “I left the canister in the house so I’d remember to replace it when it stops raining. The propane is in a sealed container so I think it’s safe, but if it makes you uncomfortable, I’ll take it outside.”
This was a nice redo of their previous conflict. When they processed the initial argument, they realized they got into a fight about the safety of a propane canister. When they redid the conversation, Kent could hear that Trish’s concern for safety took precedence over his desire for convenience. Although the issue initially appeared small, the dialogue was really about negotiating needs—Trish’s perceived need for safety versus Kent’s desire for convenience. Trish and Kent were able to move an initially flammable conversation into a safe discussion.