Most of us have experienced the ‘honeymoon’ phase in a fresh relationship. You don’t need this blog to tell you it doesn’t last, and for good reason. At some point things start to get real. Conflict starts to rear its moody head and a new dimension to your relationship arises. Fact is, some conflict is unavoidable and can actually be healthy.
While at first, avoiding all conflict in your relationship may seem like the peaceful approach to issues that pop-up, conflict avoidance is short-sighted and can snowball into disputes that often end relationships.
“In a good enough relationship, people have high expectations for how they’re treated. They expect to be treated with kindness, love, affection, and respect,” states Dr. John Gottman, the guru on love and relationships. “This does not mean they expect their relationship to be free of conflict. Even happily married couples argue. Conflict is healthy because it leads to greater understanding”.
Although uncomfortable, conflict can be healthy if we’re communicating in a constructive way. It means we’re digging deeper to the root of our individual personalities, unique quirks, and unsaid expectations.
Choose your battles.
Peace and happiness is often more enjoyable than being ‘right’. Doing your part by putting your ego in check for the sake of your relationship is a sign of good faith that will let your partner know it’s not all about you. When we dig our heels in during every argument, extending the battle into a long-term war, we quickly drain energy over what may be the smallest disagreement. We only have so much time, energy, and patience. Picking a fight every time something annoys you is a reliable path to exhaustion and a surefire way to reserve your spot in the proverbial doghouse.
The truth is, we all have different levels of tolerance. We also have the ability to improve our tolerance through conscious effort. Not sweating the small stuff is actually a skill that can be developed. One way to enhance your patience and keep your anger in check is through practicing mindfulness. We’ll talk more about that in a later post. But for now, save your bickering for the issues that matter.
This quick thought experiment can help you determine the importance of a disagreement: Will this issue be on my mind tomorrow? How about next week? If the answer is ‘no’, it’s not worth fighting over. If something is likely to bother you beyond that day or week, have that discussion. Keep calm and sincerely express yourself in a way that’s not accusatory. Explore the issue with an open mind, and hear your partner out. Chances are you agree on more than you think but aren’t taking the time to truly listen.
Be on opportunist.
Just to be clear, when we say don’t avoid conflict, we don’t mean come out guns blazing every time he leaves the toilet seat up, or when she decides to change her outfit after you’re already late. Instead, save it
for when ignoring the issue at hand will cause you to be unhappy. Use it as a tool to get to know yourself and your lover better. View it as an opportunity to express your needs, and share your feelings. And truly listen when your partner does the same.
The struggle is real, and your relationship can be stronger if you embrace that struggle when it really matters..
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress” – Frederick Douglass
Christian is focused on quality improvement and organizational development for the SPARK program at WestCare Pacific Islands. He is passionate about leadership, community development, and animal welfare. He has been a resident of southern Guam since July 2016 and spends a lot of time outdoors with his girlfriend of three years and their two pups, Tessa and Four. In his free time, you can find him at the beach or on his roof spotting shooting stars.
Gottman, J., Ph.D. (2018, January 30). The Truth About Expectations. Retrieved June 29, 2018, from https://www.gottman.com/blog/truth-expectations-relationships/