“Conflict is inevitable, combat is optional” -Max Lucado
What does this mean? Well, as humans with differing opinions, viewpoints, life history, etc., it is natural to have conflict. After all, it is our way of expressing something differently from someone else, but also provides hope of resolution and understanding. Combat, on the other hand, is when we view the opposing side as the enemy and there is no means of reconciling the opposing opinions. In different words, “you’re wrong, I’m right. Let me show you how wrong you are by means of verbal-judo with you ultimately submitting to me”. Sounds like a great way to foster toxic communication in a relationship.
Arguments in relationships happen. Disagreements happen. None of this is new information to anyone who has ever been in a relationship of any kind. Sometimes verbal arguments can feel good; you know the release of adrenaline that kicks in when you’ve got the final word. However, what about those of us who are conflict-adverse? The thought of verbally sparring can make plenty of people want to disengage, shut down, or go with the classic “Fine! Whatever. You’re right.” Just to end this uncomfortable cycle of conflict. It’s okay to be tired of operating this way in your marriage or relationship and here are a few things you can do to help facilitate a new way of fighting fairly:
Ask Yourself “Why am I upset?”
Oftentimes we think we’re upset over our partner not doing something for us that was previously promised, but maybe it’s more about not feeling like we are appreciated enough for them to keep their word. Taking time to evaluate the reason(s) as to what has you so frustrated will help clear your mind of other clutter that might be in the way of coming up with a reasonable answer to this question. From there we can clearly identify and discuss what has us troubled.
This means not degrading your partner...no yelling, no name-calling, engaging peacefully without stonewalling (not responding/answering), and taking turns speaking. When we approach conflict with respect, we help facilitate an environment where each partner can express themselves without feeling like the disagreement is going to turn into combat.
Take a Break
It is perfectly reasonable to disengage from an argument if things start to get heated or if either partner needs time to gather their thoughts. Remember, the goal of conflict is to gain understanding and resolving the present issue; it is not meant to determine a winner or loser. Prior to any argument, come up with a relationship-preserving safe word that is jointly identified and understood. It is important that this word is respected and can be used as a “cease-fire”, if you will.
Compromise or Come to an Understanding
If your partner has stated that they don’t feel valued, try asking them “what can I do to help you feel valued by me?” This is a quite a different response than listing ALL of the things you do for them, which might be a natural defense mechanism. Depending on the subject of any argument, it might be worth deciding to compromise. Compromise can look different for everyone whether it is agreeing to disagree or deciding to see your partner’s point of view without complete resolution of the issue.
Conflict is necessary for growth. Combat, on the other hand, keeps us on our side of our perspective without ever challenging our own thoughts. Remember that your partner is exactly that, a partner. Hopefully the two of you have the same goals for your relationship and you give one another the accountability and support needed to ensure that you are both working towards the same goals.
At Mind Works Counseling services in Lubbock, TX, we specialize in relationship therapy and we want to help you resolve conflicts with your partner in a healthy and productive manner.
Learn more about the Relationship Therapy we offer.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to let us answer any questions you may have.