How to deal with relationship conflict painlessly and successfully
Open communication is essential for a healthy relationship especially when it comes to dealing with relationship conflict. Communication can be one of the most effective ways to create and keep a strong, healthy union. Talking is important in keeping us aware of our partner’s needs, discussing life changes, working out problems, and negotiating and settling disagreements.
If done the right way, communication is healthy and beneficial to the relationship; however, there are times when it can become harmful. Negative communication not only makes a relationship difficult but can also be the catalyst to the end of a partnership. This is one of the top reasons marriages deteriorate and couples seek counseling. We need to feel heard and understood; otherwise, we do not feel loved. Communication can be a challenge in relationships. Couples talk but do not always communicate effectively with each other.
Knowing how to deal with conflict when it arises in a relationship can be confusing. Do you address every issue that comes up right away? Do you pick your battles and hold in some of your thoughts and feelings? How do you find a balance between what to address and what to let go of? There are two common patterns I see in couples.
Example 1 of how NOT to behave
One or both partners feels like they have to share every thought they have. Every negative feeling they have comes out of their mouth, and their partner hears it. This can be the overly critical husband who tells his wife all the things she does wrong around the house and with the children. He lets her know right away when she does not live up to his expectations. Then there is the wife who can’t wait to tell her husband everything that is wrong with the world and her life the minute he walks in the door. She lets him know all the ways he is not living up to her expectations as a husband and what he should do different. Now I know this might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point. Too much sharing can be detrimental to a relationship and can really hurt your partner.
Example 2 of how NOT to behave
Then there is the couple where one or both partners avoid conflict at all cost. They withdraw from the relationship and their partner in order to avoid drama or conflict of any kind. If asked, they will always say everything is ok. The problem is that they are stuffing their feelings, and they will eventually come out in some way. They might explode, or they might punish their partner in some overt way to express their feelings. This is the wife who will pretend all is well but will withdraw sexually from her husband, or the husband who is always retreating to his man cave.
Neither of these examples is a healthy way of dealing with relationship conflict.
The best way to deal with relationship conflict
It is much better to choose your battles, but when something does need to be discussed, make sure to do so in a positive way. Choose your words carefully. It is easier to not say something than to apologize later on. We want to find the right words to express ourselves and find a solution instead of adding to the conflict.
Learn to ask and not make demands of the other person. Choose your battles, communicate with respect, take responsibility for your feelings, and apologize when necessary. Also, remember to share all emotions with your partner, not just the anger or your frustrations. Share the joy, bliss, and love, and what you like, love, and respect about him/her. We all have disagreements. It is part of every relationship; however, there are ways to turn arguments into positive discussions. Approaching disagreements calmly and with open ears may teach us something about our partners and even ourselves! You can both come away from these communications feeling a closer connection and more love.
[Lori Ann Davis]