It does not matter whether you are dating, newlyweds or been married for years’ conflicts in relationships are both normal and natural, and healthy conflicts are a sign of a healthy marriage. But the problem I see time and time again is that many of us refuse to engage in healthy conflicts, we insist we are right and the other person wrong. We refuse to listen and go out of our way to prove we are right. This refusal and the black and white view must be avoided if we want healthy, stable and positive relationships.
Couples have conflicts for various reasons, finances, sex, child-raising, family commitment and family interference are the most common I hear. When these topics come up and they inevitably will, it is important to put your view across in a non-confrontational manner and avoid doing things that destroy love.
When I work with couples we first discuss the 12 most important emotional needs that create love and look at whether they each are getting their top 5 needs met. Then we look at the things that destroy love and ways to avoid these. It is crucial to look at this otherwise, the good we do can easily be undone. This was the case for Ahmed and his wife Alexandra. Ahmed was giving his wife plenty of affection and attention, he was making time to go to her social events, and gave her the money and lifestyle she always wanted. She loved him for this, it was the reason she had fallen head over heels when they first met. But his angry outbursts, disrespectful comments and need to control and win every conflict were destroying her love for him. Alexandra was so exhausted by his behavior she had started to withdraw from him and the relationship. Withdrawal is common in relationships, especially when one or bothare considering separation and divorce. Which is why they ended up coming to me, I shared them the below tips with them. I hope they are helpful to you. I’d love to hear your comments or any other tips you think I have missed.
Here are My 10 Tips for Handling Marital Conflict
1. Avoid Negating Their Point of View – When conflict arises, don’t be quick to tell them they are wrong or take the stance “I just know” Being told we are wrong, causes us to become defensive, which makes it harder to communicate.
2. Demonstrate Clearly Your Case– Outline your reasons for why you believe your position is valid, as opposed to expecting them to know why you are disagreeing with them.
3. Listen Attentively – Don’t be on your phone or watching TV when discussing, nothing causes more frustration than being ignored when your expressing your view point. Show you have listened by repeating back what they have said, this is the key to healthy marriage conflict.
4. Stay On the Topic and the Current Problem – so often I see couples disputes escalate because they use sweeping blanket statements, for example, “It’s always your family before us.” Or “You always do this.” Also avoid bringing up past mistakes, especially if you resolved them months or years ago.
5. Avoid Disrespectful Comments- This includes name calling, strong language, swear words. As soon as disrespect is shown, defensiveness will plague the conversation. Whether you think you have been disrespectful or not is irrelevant, if the other person perceives it as disrespectful it is.
6. Avoid Angry Outbursts – Angry outbursts like slamming a door or a fist on a table, smashing things are not only intimidating but they also turn what could have been healthy conflict into war. They kill the conversation dead. The best you can do in this situation is to have the strength to walk away. Another couple I worked with, kept getting into angry outbursts so they agreed whenever a conflict started to brew, they would have an hour cooling off period. So walk away if you are frustrated to this level, as it is likely that nothing will be resolved anyway
7. Don’t Bury It Address It – conflicts left to brew can blow up into something much bigger. Try and solve the dispute and come to some compromise as soon as possible, ideally before the day is out. I have worked with several men and women who bite their tongue for months, then explode and say so many things they later regret. Don’t let that happen to you.
8. Be Prepared to Say Sorry. Apologizing can go a long long way. Steven, I worked with said his wife never apologized or said sorry in their 21 years of marriage. In our session, he wanted to address this with her. She said she thought he knew she was sorry, as she was always nice to him afterward. He then explained that it is important to him for her to acknowledge and say it. Since then he said they have been solving arguments much more quickly and effectively.
9. Get your EGO out of the Way –I sometimes ask people is it more important for you to be right and put your spouse down by making them wrong or let it go and enjoy each other’s company? Often I see people go out of their way to correct people on something so trivial, just to boost their own ego that they are right. What is the benefit of this to them -winning a trivial agreement? and to the relationship – time wasted in conflict? Makes no sense to me.
10. Keep Your Sense of Humor and Laugh About It! I appreciate this cannot be applied all the time, but if you do find yourself arguing over the pathetic petty things, that if anyone else you heard they would burst out laughing – then do just that – laugh. Under stress, I have had plenty of ridiculous disagreements with my partner, ranging from who left the toothpaste lid off, to whose turn it was to get the shopping, to who gets control of the TV. Laughing at yourself and the trivial nature of some of your conflicts can help you gain perspective on what is most important. You and your loved one, living in a caring, supportive and understanding the loving environment.
Well, as always, I hope you can take something useful from today’s article to benefit your relationships.
From my heart to yours, Nicola