In the beginning of a relationship we bend over backwards to support our partner, often agreeing to do things that we may not necessarily want to do in order to please them and solidify our relationship. But over time, as we slip back into a more comfortable union, we naturally begin to focus more on our own needs and stop looking for ways to please our partner as we used to do. As a result conflict begins to arise, and if it is not dealt with in a healthy and constructive way it can lead to resentment, and potentially the eventual demise of the relationship.
The greatest advantage of being in a relationship is having the support from your partner that enables us to thrive and achieve our potential. Knowing you have a partner who has your back gives you the courage to take on life’s challenges. But too often when conflict takes hold we end up as opponents rather than teammates, which not only can destroy the relationship, but also leads to stress related health problems such as heart disease, depression and other immune related illnesses.
In any relationship there are two different and unique people, and that is important if we want a dynamic and passionate relationship. It’s our polarities that create the desire and the passion in our relationship, but those polarities can also pull us apart if we are unable to accept our partner’s view of the world. Following are 5 keys to how to use conflict in a positive way to create a strong and healthy partnership;
- Instigate a repair attempt. Arguments can be healthy for a relationship as they bring up issues that need to be dealt with, and also show how passionate each partner is about the issue. However when we argue we tend to get overwhelmed, and focus on our own agenda whilst not listening to what our partner is trying to say to us. When either partner begins to feel flooded it is vital that there is a word, or a phrase, or even a signal, that both partners have agreed upon that means it’s time to end the argument and return to it sometime within the next 24 hours when you have calmed down.
- The ‘issue’ is not the issue. How often have you had a roaring argument over something seemingly insignificant? Why do we get so riled up over the little things? The truth is there is always something bigger lying behind the issue. Perhaps it is a feeling of abandonment, a fear of losing the relationship, or just not feeling understood. Finding the feelings behind the issue is the key to rebuilding that connection that you’ve lost along the way.
- Active listening. After you have had the opportunity to cool down following the instigation of a repair attempt, utilising an active listening process is a highly effective way of uncovering those hidden issues and feelings. In this process one person begins by stating how they feel about the issue in a non-judgemental and non-accusing manner. Utilising short blocks of dialogue, the speaker then pauses and allows the listener to repeat back exactly what was said, without any interpretation. They then continue in the same manner until they have said all they need to say, then the listener becomes the speaker and the process is reversed. This process allows both partners to elicit all of their feelings on an issue in a way that an argument doesn’t allow them to.
- Acceptance. Rather than focusing on your partner’s shortcomings, if you can instead see your differences as a gift that brought you together and allow you to learn and grow, you will begin to see each other in a new light. Accepting that your partner’s view of the world is different to yours can allow you to appreciate them for the unique person that they are. Often differences that appear to be frustrating can be re-interpreted as relationship strengthening assets. And it’s those differences that provide the spark in any relationship.
- Watch your language. So often the intentions of our words are not how they are interpreted by our partner. We may not intend to be accusatory, but it can easily come across that way if you do not choose your wording carefully. When you have an issue with your partner that you want to address, prefacing it with something positive about them will allow them to listen without feeling as though they are being judged or accused. And also stating how you feel, rather than how your partner makes you feel, is a much more productive approach to communicating.
Effectively resolving conflict can be a tricky process, but it is possible if you both are prepared to work at it. Maybe now is a good time to re-assess the way you communicate and ask if it’s working for you. If not, perhaps it’s time to begin a new way.