According to New York-based psychologist Susan Silverman, PhD occasional conflicts are an inevitable part of life. I’m not sure that I totally agree with Dr Silverman as I subscribe to the concept of setting up A Relationship Agreement in the early stages of a relationship and if not done before, certainly setting one up prior to committing to marriage or co-habiting.
Doing so sets up the boundaries or framework under which the relationship operates so that conflicts or differing points of view are understood from the onset and an agreement as to how to deal with them is agreed to upfront or at least very early on.
That aside Dr Silverman continues to say ‘if you [or] your partner feel as if you are starring into your own nightmare version of the movie Groundhog Day, it’s certainly time to break this pattern. Its very presence is toxic to the growth of the relationship.’ And on that note I couldn’t agree more!
The biggest lesson in all of this is when things feel nightmarish in your relationship for any reason is to stop for a moment! Take time out and BREATHE! Breathe right down into your solar plexus – 3 or 4 times. Use the breathing to regain a CALMER more focussed state. Stopping for a moment breaks the cycle of anger or hurt! And potentially creates enough space to eliminate hurtful words or snide remarks being uttered.
Then ask yourself – Is this what you want from your relationship? Is this how you want your relationship to be? If not, what are YOU prepared to do about it?
SO Stop! Take a deep breath and take note! What is happening in and to the relationship by your feeling and acting this way? This simple question will lessen the anger and enable you to take a calmer look at the underlying issue, or issues.
And from my experience the underlying issues are often really very small– issues that somehow got out of hand and then festered. A word that was said in the heat of the moment! An unkind action occurred and you didn’t know how to say that it was inappropriate or your partner didn’t know how to say OOPS sorry!
Or were you trying to prove a point and felt that your point was not being heard?
Whatever the conflict was over…Ask yourself – Is the cost of how you currently feel worth continuing the conflict?
While it might seem challenging at first I put to you that looking at strategies to deal with conflict is a preferable way to dealing with issues that arise than continuing the conflict in the hope that it will go away or your partner will back down. Developing an agreed strategy up front means that should you occasionally slip and find yourself in another Groundhog Day that you’ve got an agreed strategy to assist you to resolve the conflict quickly and painlessly – A great strategy is to develop a Values based Relationship Agreement that nips conflicts in the bud – ideally eliminating them altogether.
It takes both commitment and practice for some to resolve conflict constructively but it is well worthwhile! To create a loving and committed relationship takes both commitment and agreeing to strategies to adopt when things go haywire.
While as I’ve mentioned I subscribe to the idea of developing a Values based Relationship Agreement in the early stages of a relationship developing and moving into a committed relationship and in the ideal eliciting and sharing one’s values prior to getting into a serious relationship – very few couples follow these principles.
That’s when conflict resolution skills and mastering them becomes an important intervention.
As Dr Silverman so wisely points out conflict resolution skills assist in helping you and your partner learn how to argue in a more constructive manner. And to take ownership and responsibility for your part in the disagreement.
At the end of the day there is only ONE person responsible for YOUR behaviour. And there’s only ONE person’s behaviour that YOU can change and that’s YOURS. You can’t change or control anyone else’s behaviour but your own! And NO ONE is responsible for how you act or feel except YOU! I appreciate that that can seem challenging to accept but it’s the first step towards having a loving and harmonious relationship – full of respect and autonomy- taking responsibility for everything that you say and do!
Consider these simple guidelines and ideas on behaviour and how you think and behave!
- Being truly honest with yourself – When you’re in the midst of an argument with your partner how do you behave? Are your comments directed toward resolution or are they vindictive and hurtful? Full of blame and insult? How beneficial is this? How does this behaviour enable you to slide easily and happily into a positive resolution for both of you?
Willing to try something different to get a different result? What about taking a deep breath and changing your strategy?
Moving into the guest bedroom or not speaking for days is not a good strategy to adopt. The longer the conflict continues the more difficult it becomes to return to normality – let alone a loving committed relationship!
As Einstein once said ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different result.’
- Continuing to respond in the same way that has brought you pain and unhappiness in the past is not going to result in a different result this time. So is doing something different worth a try? Just one little shift can make a big difference!
If it’s your usual practice to jump in to defend yourself before your partner is finished speaking, stop yourself from doing so. Hold off for a few moments! Gaffer tape yourself if need be! Take a deep breath before you say anything. And notice how this small shift in tempo changes the whole tone of the argument.
- Don’t play the victim! You’re not! Remember YOU are in control of how YOU feel and how YOU behave. And it’s YOUR choice as to how you react or whether you react at all.
The secret to a loving committed relationship is to learn to eliminate the destructive behaviours and to find more loving and constructive ways to overcome issues on which you don’t agree. There is NO need to make World War III out of them!
In Dr Silverman’s words ‘Give a little! Get a lot. Apologize when you’re wrong’. Sure it can be tough, but just try it and watch something wonderful happen.’
I’m a great believer in agreeing to eliminate all negative words and comments as a means of developing a healthy and loving relationship. This does not mean that disagreements won’t emerge but it does mean that healthy proactive means of solving the issues are employed rather than negative language, snide comments and standoff behaviours.
If this article has been useful, helpful and or enlightening please like, share or comment in the box below. And here’s to your relationship going from good to great or from sagging to bragging. With much love!