How would you like to learn about a new way to argue or disagree and still come out a healthy, if not healthier, couple?
Some of the deepest and most important interactions you experience happen in a relationship or as a result of one.
Granted they may not be the happiest or most ideal of experiences, but they are experiences none-the-less.
Think about it for a second.
If you’re experiencing the high and the low drama that life has to offer, congratulations – you are living.
Intertwined in a variety of those same experiences are people.
And some of the closest people to you have access to a little red-button.
You know, that internal switch that grants you the ability to lose your cool in a fraction of a second.
Yes, that button.
All Is Far From Fair In Love And War
In my first long-term relationship I was miles away from understanding pretty much everything.
Life and the dynamic of relationships were all relatively new to me.
If the two of us had a disagreement it would take roughly five or ten minutes for it to transform into a full-blown argument.
It didn’t matter what it was about, this was the progression:
Disagree > Frustration > Argue > Duck and Cover!
Notice how it played out once the “frustration” line was crossed?
“OK. You dump all your frustration, problems, and pain on me. I’ll do the same to you and we’ll be much worse off than when we started. Deal?”
It was completely ridiculous.
Since then I’ve learned a few thousand lessons.
Some which didn’t work out so well, others that will stand the test of time.
The Common Misconception About Conflict
For the most part, the view of contention in a relationship is that it’s a sign of impending doom.
In other words – conflict is a relationship killer.
John Gottman, Ph.D., has spent a considerable amount of time studying couples and marriages. His research and studies spanning over 40 years disagree with that notion.
Gottman says, “Even happily married couples can have screaming matches – loud arguments don’t necessarily harm a marriage.”
See, when we argue or disagree, then we tend to think our partnership is crumbling and on the wrong track.
But consider the following two statements:
People in long-lasting, happy, and durable relationships argue, disagree, raise their voices, and get upset.
People in horrible and deteriorating relationships have disagreements, raise their voices, and get upset.
Arguments, differences, battles and squabbles are going to happen.
The mistake is to think that because they happen the partnership is destined to fail or decompose.
Problems Have People Behind Them
At the root of conflict are our own personalities and conflict-styles.
Yes, there are issues and concerns beyond ourselves that may need to be addressed, but how we approach them is a great indicator of the direction of the relationship.
Personality includes our thoughts, feelings/emotions, ideals, beliefs, and actions.
Conflict-styles are simply how we manage ourselves and behavior throughout the process of disagreeing or clashing with another.
When your individual conflict style fails to match with your partners, and you aren’t aware it, confusion and frustration may set in.
But couples with different styles, and those who argue frequently (or avoid it all together) can still manage and come out healthier as a result.
Embracing and Working Towards Solutions
Even during an argument or disagreement, we can still work towards a beneficial outcome.
The secret is directing a dispute which focuses on problems only – not people.
But as we just learned, there are people behind the problems, so we must learn to factor them in as well.
In doing so, it’s important for you to practice validation.
Feelings are feelings.
Even though you may not agree with theirs or understand them, it does not mean they don’t exist or matter to the other person.
That is probably the hardest part to learn since you feel you are right, they feel they are right, and you both end up trying to prove the other person wrong.
Use your best judgement when taking the temperature of the situation and read their cues.
Probably the best question you can ask in the heat of the moment is “What does this relationship mean to us?”
The Final Countdown
The two who will be standing together when the dust settles are the individuals who have a strong friendship and mutual respect for each other.
Their ability to communicate and cooperate helps, but you’re less likely to work on those areas of your relationship when you’re lacking the foundation of friendship, partnership, and genuine acceptance of each other.
The difference between a happy and unhappy partnership is simple:
The mutual ability to appreciate one another inside and out.
You can acknowledge and enjoy your partner even when times are bad. You can be an advocate for a strong friendship when you seem to be apart.
You can embrace their aspirations and recognize their faults at the same time.
Action Steps You Can Implement Right Now
When our foundations with each other are rooted in a positive way it makes it much more difficult to let negativity bypass and destroy what you have established.
1. Start making a change today by taking a better look at your conflict-styles.
Step back and observe them. Are they working for you?
If not, is there room for improvement or to adjust them on either end?
Be aware that there are going to be styles that do not properly match up.
Say you prefer distance and they prefer closeness. You can easily see how that can create more issues.
Gauge whether or not this will make or break you and if there are any work-arounds or ways to cooperate here.
2. Re-establish or re-inforce boundaries
Feeling a certain way does not make certain behavior right, wrong, or just.
Because one person may be feeling bad does not give them a right to overstep boundaries.
If you haven’t had an open discussion about the rules and limits of your disputes, there’s no time better than the present.
It’s amazing how many couples overlook this very important discussion or avoid it all together.
3. Realize that there’s no such thing as perfection.
Sometimes this is a hard pill to swallow.
Of course the perfect union would be amazing!
That’s not a statement or expectation grounded in reality though. There’s no such thing as perfection.
Expecting it is foolish, but working towards it is not.
We can always benefit by aspiring to do more and be more.
For the most part, we do not like the fact that their is turmoil in our lives, or that we have to deal with stress and drama.
When we struggle with our spouses, business partners, or family, we are essentially struggling with our ability to manage contention.
How we deal with the conflict is a sure-fire sign of our own ability to prolong or destroy the relationships we create.
Now it’s your move… What type of conflict-style do you have? Are you quick to take the gloves off? Do you find that your style matches well with those you are close to? Leave a comment below and be sure to Share, Tweet, and Like if you’re picking up what I’m putting down.
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Photo by JD Hancock