Conflict in Relationships
Do you and your partner(s) struggle to see eye to eye?
Are you and your partner(s) constantly fighting?
Let’s be honest here, disagreements and arguments are inevitable in all types of relationships, even in your romantic relationship(s)!
One thing to note here is that it does not always have to consist of you screaming at each other or throwing things. Healthy fights are a thing too, and they should be more encouraged. When those difficult conversations come up...and they will, there are different things that you and you partner(s) can do to make the most out it. But before we get into that, let’s go over some general housekeeping rules when fighting.
The first thing to bring up is acknowledging your partner(s) point of view without judgement. This ties in very nicely with the power of honesty and transparency, which was discussed in our last post. All parties involved should feel heard and acknowledged. Instead of arguing or invalidating their feelings, respond to them with empathy and kindness. For example you could say “I’m sorry I hurt you” and “I should have considered how you would feel.” Even if you do not agree with their perspective, it is important to show your partner(s) that you are on the same team and genuinely care about their wellbeing...this includes their feelings and their perspectives! In the end, perspectives matter more than facts when you’re solving a relationship problem!
This next point may sound basic but...the basics are foundational! It is important to take turns when talking. When you’re having tough conversations, it is easy to get overwhelmed and riled up which can build unnecessary tension. Ineffective fights may consist of one person speaking the entire time, unintentionally invalidating one another, or speaking without responding to what the other one said. Useful conversations will include all parties listening and responding. Instead of interrupting your partner(s), or jumping to conclusions...we wonder, what difference would it make if you embraced curiosity and attempted to understand your partner(s) perspective. In order to practice this, it is integral to take turns, slow down conversations, and seek to understand each other.
Let’s remember the end goal of a healthy fight, it’s about getting on the same page, it’s about getting closer to each other, and it’s a time and space where you can comfortably talk things out. One thing to consider practicing during your next conversation is to make requests and not complaints.
Complaints can come across as absolutes. What we often see in the office are statements such as “you never listen to me” or “you always prioritize work over me”. (These absolutes are criticisms, which we will talk about next week! Stay tuned for more!) Instead, throw in your vulnerable side so your partner(s) can empathize and see your point of view a bit better, for example, try saying “I’m feeling a little stressed, can you help pick up dinner?”.
The next key point is to give your partner(s) the benefit of the doubt. According to research, predictors of a healthy relationship include, but are not limited to, holding onto the positive perspective. Basically, all this really means is that you are able to assume that your parnter(s) is coming from a well intended place! Think about it...when you are feeling upset or hurt, it is quite easy to jump right to "they don't care about me...they knew this would upset me..." or other forms of this thinking. Holding onto a positive perspective makes it easier for you to remain curious and navigate conversations with a more constructive way.
Last but certainly not least is to work as a team! This is a key theme mentioned in our recent articles because relationships will often look at a problem as themselves versus their partner(s) when it should be you and your partner(s) against the problem.
The Next Steps:
So, if you and your partner(s) are embodying all these pointers and guidelines when having a disagreement, then great! We hope this was lovely refresher for you all! If this is your first time ever hearing this, don’t worry, your relationship(s) is/are not doomed. Remember that relationships take time and effort. It is okay to take small steps to get to your desired relational goals. Small steps add up to big change...big change does not happen overnight!
If you and your partner(s) are struggling, perhaps it may be helpful to consider therapy as an option. At Relationship Matters Therapy Centre, our goal is to work with your relationship(s) to identify the specific areas of conflict or other aspects of your relationship(s) that you would like to change! We will then, collaboratively, work through these issues in your sessions together. If you feel that your relationship(s) could use some support, reach out – we are here to help when you are ready!
· Acknowledge your partner(s) point of view without judgement
· Respect each other and take turns talking
· Make requests and not complaints
· Always give your partner(s) the benefit of the doubt...hold onto the positive perspective
· Work as a team against the problem... not each other!