Conflict in relationships happens. People miscommunicate, feel threatened, need to feel in control, or sometimes just need to “win” or “be right.” But, even though conflict arises in all relationships, it never has to get out of control.
Conflict in Relationships Hurts, But It Can Hurt Less
When we get into a scrape with the person we love we often wind up in a difficult place. We sometimes hurt and feel unloved. Maybe we get mad at our mate and sulk or lash out. These are very common positions that many couples engage in. No one likes them. They are difficult and unpleasant.
As a couples specialist I am always trying to understand how to explain relationships in the simplest ways so people can improve how they interact with the person they love. And as I was thinking about this concept it occurred to me that there are really two places we end up occupying after a fight. We are either doing something about our partners or we are doing something about ourselves.
Mitigating Conflict in Relationships By Self-Awareness
As we grow into understanding ourselves—what triggers us and how we deal with our own difficulties—we make way for a more peaceful relationship. Think about this, there’s a fight, and instead of worrying about the next thing you are going to say to your partner, you think about how you got your feelings hurt.
You can see by just reading those two positions, when you think about yourself and what hurt you, you are not engaging in difficulty with your beloved. The fighting ceases. You are actually on the road to self-development and health. This is a challenging position for all of us, including myself. But I do know it is a way out of the miscommunication and fighting a lot of couples experience.
An Example of Conflict in Relationships Arising…
Here’s an example: recently, I came into the family room of my house and my husband who was at his desk in the corner of the room with his back to me informed me he was busy. I know this tone (not friendly but not mean) so I just gather the dog and take a walk. I am returning home and heading through the room to gather the trash as I make my way outside to the back and he engages me about some news about the daughter.
I am very interested in this news but I am standing there with a bag of dog do and discarded mail and I say, “Let me throw this out I will be right back.” It took me less than a minute and when I returned I asked for information about the daughter and he barked at me and said in a forceful tone as if I am one big disturbance, “Linda I am working here!”
…And Then Being Averted By Mindful Self-Development
And when I heard that complaint I went off. “Fine, we won’t talk!” I answered him just as forcefully. He said, probably realizing I was about to go into a sulky zone, “Come on Linda, don’t go there. I am working here. You can see I am working. I don’t bother you when you are working.” And that sets me off. I looked at what I do when I am talking to a counseling client. I NEVER shush him. I always leave the room.
So I said, “But I am never mean about it. You were mean.” He said, “I wasn’t mean.” And then I mimicked him, so he could hear himself. And then he got it and said he was sorry. And we were on our way back to connecting from the fight.
Minding Feelings and Communicating Calmly Dampens Conflict Before It Gets Out of Control
This is not an example of the concept I was talking about earlier though. If I was to demonstrate taking care of myself, I would have listened to his curt response to me, left the room if I needed to and thought about what happened. I would have realized that I got my feelings hurt because he was uncaring to me and I guess I always expect him to be caring. Then later when I calmed down in a very soft way non-accusing way I would tell him what I experienced and ask him to say something different the next time he gets annoyed with me.
In my mind when I write this I think it’s going to make a difference. I like to encourage people to try new things with their partner to improve the way they feel with the person they love. And as you can see I am still trying to improve, especially in the arena of learning how to take care of myself.
Minimize Conflict in Your Relationship
Read a Book About How You and Your Partner Can Communicate Peacefully
Can’t make it on Monday? Learn more about how to communicate less confrontationally with your spouse by reading Linda’s book, Safe. Happy. Loved. Simple Skills for Your Relationship. It has tips that just might help you understand each other’s feelings, and through that understanding, defuse conflicts before they grow into fights.
Get Couples Counseling
Come in for couples counseling. Couples counseling can help you and your loved one get the most out of your relationship. It'll equip you with coping strategies and tools for communication that can help you argue less and love more.