Wouldn’t it be something if relationships never left the early, dreamy stages of infatuation and wonder? Think of all the simplicity that would allow. There would be no drama, negativity or conflict. No miscommunications or missteps.
Of course, there would also be no depth, sense of camaraderie or solid understanding of one another’s needs, strengths and vulnerabilities.
Conflicts help relationships grow.
They force us to step back and take a look at ourselves from our partner’s point of view. Conflicts force us to challenge our assumptions and get back to our core values; to fight for ourselves and create a space in which the relationship for both individual and couple to thrive.
There are dozens of reasons couples have conflict. Some common ones include finances, distrust, communication problems and power differences within the relationship.
An otherwise healthy couple who experiences conflict can work through a lot of the issues that cause distress.
Ways to Work Through Conflict
Communication and problem solving are the two main factors for solving couple’s conflicts. These main factors can be dressed up in any number of ways, but those are the major elements that will save the day.
Bring an attitude of optimism:
When sitting down to work through a conflict with your partner, take a few moments alone to connect with yourself. Recognize the good within yourself and your partner and sit with that loving peace for a few minutes in a meditative way.
This will help reframe your mindset to optimism and allow each of you to bring your best selves to the table.
Focus on listening for understanding:
Sometimes conflict brings up an auto-pilot setting within us to do more talking and explaining than listening.
This can result in us interrupting one another, filibustering, or simply waiting for the chance to talk rather than truly listening.
Agree on some ground-rules ahead of time; take turns talking, use active and reflective listening skills, have note paper to jot down points you want to make when it is your turn to talk.
Acknowledge your true feelings:
During conflict, a mixture of emotions commonly arises. Unfortunately, these can all get transformed into anger in the moment.
Take an inventory of your feelings, even if you have to take a break from the conversation for a few moments. Ask yourself, “what are my range of emotions right now?” Even if you aren’t ready to tell your partner each of these feelings, being willing to admit them to yourself is important.
Maybe after the conflict resolved you can share the different feelings you were experiencing. If you are an advanced-level conflict-guru, share those other feelings during the conflict.
Frame them as ‘I statements’ such as “I feel angry but I also feel sad about what you said to me.” Being open about your varied emotional experiences can open up a new dialogue that may be less confrontational.
The willingness to be vulnerable during conflict can be a game-changer for a lot of couples.
Bring ideas for common resolution:
Anyone can complain and gripe about problems within a relationship, but it is far more effective to bring solutions rather than simply huff and puff. Before you open a door that you know has conflict behind it, ask yourself to identify (and write down) five win-win resolutions.
Just as we look for mutually beneficial solutions in work situations and many other areas of life, there are usually ways to solve relationship conflicts that take both people’s needs into account. If you are already embroiled in a conflict with your partner, take a few minutes to identify some win-win solutions together.
Agree that neither of you will automatically dismiss the ideas of the other; simply write down all of the ideas on one big list. The beginning of the list may not have many win-win solutions at first, but as you practice this skill it gets easier. As you near the bottom of the list, there are bound to be some solutions that both of you can live with.
Conflict is uncomfortable but can allow couples to build a greater connection when managed properly. Couples counseling is a useful place to explore conflict within relationships and can facilitate healthy communication methods.