Conflict Resolution in Relationships
In healthy relationships there’s always a little conflict. Whether it’s the cat and mouse game when first pursuing/ being pursued or the “will they/ won’t they” I once fondly remembered as being “juicy”, conflict and conflict resolution make for healthy relationships. If there’s no conflict, typically one party is sacrificing who they are as a person to appease the other. If your partner doesn’t respect how you think or feel, I might question how strong the relationship really is. It can be so easy to give up and walk away. You can swipe right on your next love, bff, or even your job! Why aren’t we trying harder to resolve that conflict and level up inter-personally?
After my ex and I broke up we both started dating others in an effort to put a band-aid on our poor little hearts. My relationship didn’t work out because, let’s be candid, I always had one foot out the door and was waiting for the other shoe to drop with him. The ex, on the other hand, learned from our “failed” relationship and has bent over backwards for his much younger lady love. Why? Well, he said he couldn’t face the hopeless feeling of another failed relationship. Rather than giving up and getting on Tinder, he’s making an effort to manage and resolve conflict. I wish we had tried that hard, and I commend him for his efforts.
Repairing Through Conflict
If ex’s new(est) relationship has taught me anything, it’s that maybe I need to give a closer look to conflict resolution. If someone as stubborn and sarcastic as he can make it work, I think it’s time I take a look at ways to navigate conflict in my next relationship (you know – if I ever meet a dude I want to see a second time in this city).
Make Eye Contact
Give the person your full attention. If they’re bringing a complaint your way, give them your eye contact and listen actively. If you’re bringing a complaint to the table, don’t be sheepish. Ensure your body-language is open so that your partner feels you’re emotionally connected and open to what he or she is saying.
Don’t dance around the issue. Before coming to the table with an issue or set of problems, consider why you feel a certain way, and what you might say (and how you’ll say it) in an effort to come to a resolution. Be direct in saying what you’re feeling or how something is particularly effecting you. Wishy-washy statements using “maybe” or “I dunno” aren’t effective. Say what you feel and let the other person react. Working through issues as they come up can help you/ your partner’s self-esteem, and make big blow-ups a thing of the past.
Don’t Assert Blame
The person may not even realize that a particular action is bothering you. Passive aggressive comments will just upset the other person, bringing you much further away from intimacy and mutual respect. Statements like “my problem with you is ___” can be better positioned as “it’s a problem for me when ___”. Avoid saying “you did___” even if what the person did is entirely infuriating. You want resolution, not further conflict, right?
Avoid Making Sweeping Generalizations
Use specific instances and “I Feel” comments. Be genuine and pick your battles wisely. Don’t name-call, use sarcasm, or roll your eyes (I personally have serious work to do on this one – Tina Fey and I share epic eye-rolls).
We have two ears and one mouth – maybe we should be listening a little better! Hear your partner’s complaint(s) thoroughly without interrupting. Respond when they’re finished and try to use elements of what they’ve just told you without contempt. Don’t just wait to speak. Listen.
Find Positive Even in the Negative
When I have a tough day at work, I’ll typically start considering feelings about particular moments or actions. When I turn my thoughts to my daily tasks and long-standing projects on the whole, I think about how interesting my career is and how much I love what I do. Your relationships are the same. Certainly there are moments which will make you want to strangle the other person, but on the whole – do they bring you joy? Is this person a major contributor to your life? Focus on those elements and, if possible, bring them up. If you find ways to make (non-sarcastic) jokes in the midst of a negative conversation, you might be able to lighten the mood and find a break-through. Try to brainstorm a solution rather than letting the issue sit as a problem.
Conflict – Just Move On
Ultimately, conflict is a significant source of stress for most of us. It makes us uncomfortable. Often we don’t know what to say or there you’ve just tried too many times to make the other person comfortable. Are you constantly bending over backwards for someone who is just using you? Evaluate whether it’s worth the conflict resolution or if you should give up and move on. You might just find it’s a great relief to back off and move on. Take a break. Sometimes it’s worth coming back to and sometimes it’s better left alone.
Conflict is a sign of maturity when resolved through open and honest communication. Using Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, or any of the other hundreds of dating apps and sites out there to find the next best thing instead of putting a little effort into your current relationship is immature and irresponsible. You wouldn’t send a perfectly good car to a chop-shop due to a flat tire, right? Don’t throw away a solid relationship due to a disagreement or even a fundamental issue which could be resolved through communication and changed behaviour.