People often fear arguing. Conflicts aren’t fun, but they may sometimes be necessary. Relationships between individuals who are afraid of conflict rarely last because underlying resentments linger and problems go unresolved.
Some of us roll over and play dead when we are confronted with conflict; we become sheepish and fail to stand up for ourselves. Others of us fight back with the wrath of God, taking no prisoners and leaving the earth scorched around us. Neither of these approaches helps build healthy, intimate and enduring relationships.
There are things you can do which will help you work through conflicts in a way that works for both people.
First, remember that your goal is to resolve the problem – not win the argument.
Be specific when you bring up a complaint. Don’t just whine; instead, ask for a change in behavior which will get you what you want.
The best way to resolve a problem is to bring it up as soon as is practical. Storing up problems or resentments is a bad habit. Find the proper time and place – in private, for instance – and get it over with. If you delay, your partner may feel like you have some sort of hidden motive in addressing the issue.
Resist the urge to throw every irritation and complaint at your partner. Instead, pick one problem at a time.
While getting angry is certainly appropriate at times, getting physical – slapping, pushing, shoving, etc. – is not. Ever.
Avoid sarcasm, too, which can end up wounding your partner and leaving you another mess to clean up after this conflict has been resolved. While you are at it, don’t pin labels on your partner (“You inconsiderate jerk!”). Accept your partners’ feelings as true for him; don’t dismiss them as unimportant or artificial.
Do you imagine that you can read your partner’s mind – that you know what he is thinking, or what will be acceptable to him, or how he will react to something you say? These beliefs limit our creativity in relationships.
Believe it or not, your partner may have a view of reality that is very different from your own. That doesn’t mean it is less accurate than yours. Take time to make sure that you understand each other’s perspectives. When you do, you are ready to consider a compromise that can result in a win-win resolution. If you come to a new understanding and find that you need to apologize, do so.
Everyone gets hurt from time to time. Don’t store up these hurts and resentments, and don’t dredge them up in the middle of an argument to counter what you are hearing from your partner. Stay in the present. Neither of you can do anything about the past, anyway.
Let go of the idea that you can “win” an argument. It’s easy to score points in a verbal battle while losing sight of the bigger picture. Do you need your partner to apologize and admit that you are right, or do you need him to make changes that will help your relationship to be happier and more complete?
Relationships take work. Taking the time to work through arguments and disagreements is one way of showing a partner that we love him and are committed to growing closer together.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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