I was talking to a friend the other day. He mentioned he was afraid to get into a relationship because he didn’t want to deal with the conflict that would undoubtedly occur. That got me thinking. I don’t like conflict, however I don’t dislike it either – retrospectively speaking, of course.
Here’s a fun fact: According to research done by Dr. John Gottman, about two-thirds of a couple’s problems actually never go away. You know what that means? Conflict is going to happen. When conflict is handled correctly, it can strengthen relationships. The trick is to practice working through the smaller issues before they get out of control. In other words, learn how to fight in a healthier manner in preparation of the bigger issues.
Take a chance on conflict. Rather than running away when the clouds roll in, face them head on. Let your partner know you’re uncomfortable, upset, worried… fill in the blank.
After expressing your concerns, practice truly listening. Repeat back to your partner what you heard them say, and try not to add any extra opinions. Continue this process until you have fully heard their complaint. Also, remember to attack the problem, not your partner. This helps keep both of your walls down and stay open to problem solving, rather than becoming defensive.
Get specific about the issues at hand. Don’t use global meanings and whatever you do, try to stay away from those pesky words: “always” and “never.” By specifically addressing what’s going on, you and your partner can begin to brainstorm feasible options of a compromised solution.
I’m not going to play dumb. Not every fight is going to be nice. Sometimes, things get out of hand and tempers flare. Here’s my last tip on learning to manage conflict well. Take a time out. It’s perfectly ok to admit things are getting out of control and you need a break. However, remember that just like in sporting events, the timeout only lasts so long. You must return to the conversation once each of you have settled down and can think clearly.
Don’t forget, fighting often leads to making up, which can be fun! If you avoid conflict, you miss out on the bonding that basking in accomplishment often brings. Research also shows that avoiding conflict is actually more harmful than engaging in healthy conflict resolution.
If you feel like you and your partner need more than just a few blog posts to learn conflict resolution, feel free to give us a call at 713.446.1360. We have plenty of counselors ready to help you!
Written by: Sarah Henry, M.A.