Conflict in a relationship is the most commonly misunderstood component. Many people come in with dialectics that fighting is a part of every relationship or that they are looking for someone in which to never conflict. Yeah right. Let’s get a little clarification on a couple of words before we proceed. For the sake of this blog we will refer to a conflict when speaking of a disagreement, conflict of interest, or a trying time in the relationship. We will refer to fighting as that nasty thing couples will do when self-respect of yourself and the relationship is lost.
Fighting is what will poison your relationship. Conflict is healthy, normal, and somewhat essential. Fighting can leave us beaten, broken down, and exhausted. Conflict resolution enables us to use teamwork and can fuel the relationship. Depending on the intensity of the fight, fighting can also be abusive which will break your morale and self-esteem.
Here are my Rules of Engagement for Couples:
1) No screaming, yelling, swearing or name calling. As soon as one of the former begins, then all bets are off. You are no longer being heard and your partner went straight to defensive mode. As much as we like to think that we can take this back, we can’t. Think about how the presentation of your words will effect your partner after you have made up.
2) Use “I” statements. This is therapy 101. We stay away from “you did this” or “you made me feel this,” and even the sneaky undercut version of “I feel this way when YOU do that.” Try to stick with how you are feeling.
3) When using tactic number 2, it is common for people to direct back to the other person when describing the situation. Stick to the facts. Drop any assumptions you may have about what the other person was thinking, feeling, or their intentions.
4) Don’t be afraid to compromise or say that you are sorry, but only if you truly are and will correct your mistakes in the future.
5) Pick and choose your battles. Listen to yourself when you are approaching your limits so that it doesn’t end in a volcanic eruption. Remember that people can and do impact our emotions, but we get the final say on how and when we want to respond.
You know that you have successfully gotten through a conflict when you have felt heard and you feel closer to your partner afterwards, knowing that you have worked through a trying time together.