Can You Resolve Relationship Conflicts Without Inflicting Emotional Pain?

Relationship Conflicts

Are you and your spouse going in circles over the same conflicts? Are you losing hope that you will ever achieve harmony in your relationship again? Have you tried couples therapy or are you concerned that it may cause even greater emotional pain while you and your partner unleash your deepest feelings, regrets, and grudges?

Although we all have differences, experts say that relationships tend to work when two people remain emotionally responsive to each other. Marital therapy walks the delicate line of exploring hurts without creating too many new emotional casualties in an effort to repair, heal, and strengthen that emotional connection between two people. But it doesn’t always work.

What if your seemingly hopeless marital struggles are due, in part, to brain dysfunction? Click To Tweet

What if your seemingly hopeless marital struggles are due, in part, to brain dysfunction? Since therapists and counselors typically don’t look at the brain, it’s impossible to know with talk therapy alone. Yet there are a number of brain health issues that can and do make relationships challenging to navigate when they are unaddressed. Some of the most destructive ones to relationships include:

If you are at a stalemate in couples counseling with your spouse, it may be worth exploring if one or both of you have any underlying brain health issues at play in your relationship. One of the most accurate ways to find out is to get a brain scan.


Looking at the brain can reveal biological factors that may influence a couple’s ability to get the most out of relationship therapy. One of the best ways to see how the brain is functioning is an advanced brain imaging technology called SPECT (single-photon emission computed tomography), which measures blood flow and activity in the brain. It reveals areas with healthy or abnormal blood flow as well as regions with healthy activity, too much activity, or too little activity. These brain health factors may play a hidden role in your marital conflicts. Addressing any brain disorder can help relationships improve dramatically.

Based on the Amen Clinics database of over 200,000 brain scans, our experts have recognized a connection between abnormal activity levels in certain areas of the brain and common brain health issues that negatively impact relationships. Diagnosing the brain issue and addressing it with targeted lifestyle habits can sometimes fix what even couples counseling cannot. The examples below demonstrate the impact of two highly prevalent brain health issues – anxiety and depression – and the areas of the brain associated with causing them.

Anxiety and the Basal Ganglia

Your brain’s basal ganglia are involved with integrating feelings, thoughts, and movement. When the basal ganglia are overactive, there is a tendency toward anxiety, panic, fear, and tension. This can result in decreased sexual interest due to tension in the body, and a lack of physical or emotional energy. Fear and anxiety infiltrate memories. A person with basal ganglia issues may try to avoid conflict and have people-pleasing tendencies, which leads to resentment. They can exhaust their partners with their incessant fears. Partners may feel the person with anxiety is “uptight” or always projects “doom and gloom.”

However, there are ways to calm the basal ganglia, which helps to reduce anxiety. Hypnosis, meditation, relaxation training, and taking GABA in supplement form can provide the calming influence the basal ganglia need. When the basal ganglia are functioning optimally, people tend to be calmer, more relaxed, and have a more hopeful outlook. Their bodies tend to feel good, making them freer to express their sexuality. And they’re more able to deal with conflict in an effective way and speak up for themselves so they are more of an equal partner in a relationship. Addressing the underlying issue of anxiety can provide the extra support your marriage may need.

Depression and Deep Limbic System Problems 

The limbic system plays a role in setting a person’s emotional tone. When it has too much activity, an individual may have depressive symptoms, a darker outlook, and seek to distance themselves from others. A depressed person often struggles to bond with their partner and can be very quick to point out flaws, which heightens tensions. They tend not to be playful and have little interest in sex. Their low energy and lack of motivation can burden the relationship. Their partners may be bothered by their isolating tendencies and may object to their negative outlook. They find it hard to be around their depressed partner.

Yet, there are ways to soothe an overactive limbic system, including a number of effective lifestyle changes such as physical exercise, aromatherapy, and supplements like saffron that support healthy moods. When an individual’s limbic system is healthy and functioning properly, they tend to be more positive and better able to connect to their partner. They’re more likely to have bright energy and are more playful and interested in sex. Their positive attitude makes them more attractive to others. When the underlying issue of depression and an overactive limbic system is addressed, it really supports a healthy emotional connection in the marriage.

These are just a couple of examples of how correcting brain dysfunction can benefit your relationship. There are many others.


As you can see, scanning your brain, and addressing potential brain health issues can resolve some factors at play in your marital conflict that traditional therapy misses—and without causing additional emotional casualty. In fact, seeing biological evidence of brain health issues can increase forgiveness and helps partners see their loved ones’ issues as medical rather than a character flaw. This can be so helpful in the relationship healing process.

Relationship issues, marital conflict, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. I disagree in part with your article. While as a marriage therapist, I do not look at the brain the way you do, I consider all the issues you mentioned as a part of the whole. I actually have most of my clients take your brain health assessment test online and suggest they try supplements as a part of their treatment. I have practiced marriage therapy for 30 years and realize that there are a myriad of issues that could be causing conflict and work to help treat the whole of what is happening.

    Comment by Jennifer Smith — April 22, 2022 @ 3:36 AM

  2. Can SPECT imaging detect signs of CTE?

    Comment by Sharon Wilson — April 22, 2022 @ 4:12 AM

  3. Agreed but how to get your spouse/partner to have a brain scan is the issue. After having been unsuccessful at marriage counseling and the counselor fortifying my spouse saying that there is no narrcism present ( there is something wrong like narcissistic behavior) there is no way they would have a brain scan. It definitely could be depression. I wanted to try counseling again and my spouse told me no we’ve already tried that.

    Comment by Linda — April 22, 2022 @ 5:48 AM

  4. Hello Sharon, thank you for reaching out. Here are articles from Amen Clinics on CTE:

    Comment by Amen Clinics — April 22, 2022 @ 7:19 AM

  5. Why is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) not listed among the brain health issues that can be challenging or destructive to a relationship?

    Comment by Sara — April 22, 2022 @ 8:34 AM

  6. What about domestic violence such as gas lighting, manipulation? I’ve found that therapists aren’t knowledgeable enough on domestic violence that isn’t physical. I’ve learned that domestic violence changes the brain.

    Comment by Lisa — April 22, 2022 @ 1:14 PM

  7. I 100% agree and have lived this!! My ex husband and I went to nearly EVERY marriage counselor in our area for 14 years. It didn’t help at all! It actually caused more problems. Naturally each marriage counselor would connect more to either him or I and act accordingly with obvious favoritism. We learned some tools as individuals but never anything that helped us as a couple. I think it did more harm than good. I do believe in personal counceling and have found that to be helpful but that’s where it should stay. Each person working on themselves for themselves and it’s possible that could transfer good into a marriage. Thank you for shedding light on this! Marriage counseling was traumatic for us.

    Comment by Angela — April 22, 2022 @ 1:20 PM

  8. Need help saving relationship

    Comment by Donnie — April 22, 2022 @ 3:52 PM

  9. These articles are very helpful.

    Comment by Couples Therapy Miami — May 30, 2022 @ 5:46 AM

  10. As a 61 yo man who has ADHD, on my 4th Marriage, step daughter became a therapist and we have examined various thing about my marriage with her mom. what Dr. Amen researches tends to be pretty spot on.

    I am not calling Jennifer Smith out but I do think she may wish to take a closer look at what is being offered here with some of your clients.

    To Linda, I would’ve done anything to have saved my 3rd marriage, a spouse who love you should be open to anything. In my marriage we knew of my ADHD and I was medicating and learning about it. Unfortunately, eventhough she worked in the pharmaceutical industry, she would not learn about it so we could grow. In fairness I neglected to learn about non military PTSD which she suffered from.

    Comment by Michael — September 10, 2023 @ 10:10 AM

  11. This article beautifully addresses the importance of resolving relationship conflicts with empathy and compassion. It emphasizes the power of communication and understanding to prevent emotional pain. It reminds us that cultivating healthy relationships is the key to personal growth and lasting love. Thank you for this insightful perspective.

    Comment by Astrologer Devanand — October 25, 2023 @ 11:12 PM

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