All couples fight.
Some more than others.
But one of the most consistent and established research findings in relationship science is that it’s not whether or not a couple argues that matters. It’s HOW they argue that counts!
So let’s take a look at
Navigating CONFLICT with LOVE ✨
But before we dive into some ‘fight smarter’ tips
here’s the thing with conflict…
Many of us have been conditioned that any kind of conflict is bad. People pleasers, peacekeepers, love and light warriors I’m looking at you (and me). Conflict feels scary and I get it. But conflict has the power to change. It has the power to release and shift and allow for a new level of understanding to unfold. It can translate into a deeper level of authenticity, vulnerability and true expression. Good things come from clearing the air.
But and here’s the big BUT!
There is a fine line between constructive conflict and just plain old rip each other to pieces conflict. Conflict that stems from (undealt with) relation-shit from the past which is then projected all over your partner again and again, doesn’t serve anyone. Emotional manipulation, shaming and control tactics aren’t constructive conflict, it’s relationship warfare. We must recognize the difference.
So how can we tackle conflict with a little more… love ?
1) Watch the story. We, humans, love two things, finding meaning and being right. Our minds, the little overachievers that they are, are busy creating stories, “truths” and meaning 24/7 about what is happening in each and every moment (based upon our previous experiences, assumptions, bias etc) Often times when conflict arises it is because of the ‘story’ we have attached to the other’s action.
For example, let’s say your partner goes to the pub after work instead of coming straight home. You’re p*ssed off. The story you’re telling yourself is that your partner doesn’t care about you, he prefers his friends over you, he doesn’t value your relationship.
But whilst that story may be true for you, your partner may have a completely different interpretation. And until each person understands the others meaning or story that has been created from that particular event it will be very hard to find a compassionate understanding or resolution.
2) Cut out the criticisms. Usually, when we criticise our partner it’s because of an unmet need or longing.
“All you do is work, you’re never around, you’re so selfish!” actually means “I need you at home more because I miss you”.
Instead of asking for what we want, we often lash out in anger because it feels safer. It keeps you “right” and them “wrong” (and we LOVE being right!) But constant criticism will erode even the strongest relationship. So instead of lashing out in anger, ask for what you need from a place love and watch the difference it makes.
3) Start with I feel… Nothing good comes from you did this, you always do that. It leads to the other person becoming defensive and often shuts down further conversation. Try leading with I feel XYZ then the behavior description followed by a solution. For example, I feel upset that you arrived late tonight, next time could you please be on time, I’d really appreciate it”
4) Own your part. Unless you come home to your partner microwaving kittens, the chances that you also played a role in the conflict is high. So before launching into a full-blown blame and shame attack, take a moment to reflect on where you’re also responsible in all this. Are you playing the victim? Not stating your needs? Lashing out, projecting, blaming unfairly? Pause and reflect before you react.
5) Set them up to win not fail. Recently, my chap (Tomek) went on a ski trip. A few days past without a phone call (a few half-hearted texts that was it) I was getting angry. The next morning, I realized I had two options 1) Wait until Tomek gets home a few days later and then blast him for not calling or 2) Send him a text asking him to call when he next had a chance because I was feeling lonely. I chose option 2. Within the hour he called, apologized, we chatted and moved on.
So rather than keeping your partner in the wrong give them a chance to win instead. State your needs, share a solution, open a dialogue rather than sit and brew in the sh*t of it. It can be tough on the old ego but worth it in the long run. Call your partner forward rather than setting them up to fail.
6) Stay physically connected. I fail miserably at this one. But I hear if you hold hands or keep some bodily contact as you navigate your conflict it helps. I’ll try it, if you do!
7) Throw an “I love you” in there. Tomek does this REALLY well. No matter whether we go to bed with an unresolved disagreement, or are in the midst of a fight, he will say I love you. It socks me in the heart every.single.time and reminds me that whilst right now might be challenging, we deeply love and respect one another. Give it a try, it’s beautiful.
8) Be careful of character assassinations. Have you ever noticed that if you do something wrong it’s because of some outside occurrence? You were late because of work/train/losing your keys. But if they do something wrong it’s because of who they are, their character flaws. They were late because they don’t value your time, they’re selfish, uncaring. We attribute their mistakes to their faulty personality, whilst ours to a circumstance. Be careful of attacking their character rather than just the action.
So there you go…just a few tips I’ve found super helpful along the way. Conflict can be tricky, especially when we get all tangled up in who’s right and who’s wrong, our own egos and choosing pride over love. But try hard to navigate conflict with love, soften, seek understanding rather than judgment, listen hard, share openly and you’ll come out the other side.
Hope that helps!