Conflict is common in relationships. It is an unavoidable part of interacting with other human beings. Whether it is between family, friends, colleagues, or a partner, disagreement will find its place. The arguments that tend to affect us the most are those that take place between us and our significant other. You spend most of your time with them, if not every day.
Most of the important decisions (big and small) are made with your partner, such as financial decisions, home decisions, family decisions, etc. It is also true that you don’t see everything the same way. There are two personalities trying to work as one to come up with the best solution. The process or result doesn’t always end up the way we would hope.
As you learn about your partner, you adjust and compromise with your needs and wants. You may even adjust your conflict management style to suit your partner as well. But, what if that isn’t enough? For some couples, arguments grow like wild fire.
Usually, the argument starts off about something minute. But, the fuel from that argument causes you to argue about everything else that follows. In other words, grudges are held and nothing gets resolved. The arguments become daily and constant, which may soon affect other areas of your life.
The emotional effects of arguments may linger and can ruin your day at work or your outing with friends. It may affect your self-esteem and that of your partner’s. Here are 7 steps that you can take when you can’t take the fighting anymore:
This may be easier said than done. When you are in the heat of a fight and you have a lot you want to express, the last thing that may want to do is hold it in. Speaking without thinking may be a big part as to why you are fighting.
You are saying things that you may not necessarily mean, or you are coming across as short tempered or unreasonable. These attributes tend to make people feel defensive and may urge them to speak their mind at an unhealthy rate.
Taking space is important in ensuring that you clear your mind. This will allow you to gather your thoughts and express them in a respectful manner. Giving space is equally as important – and as difficult.
We live in an age where we are able to obtain answers instantaneously, through google, email, texting, social media, etc. So, why wouldn’t we expect an instant response from someone who is standing right before us?
Just like how you need space to collect your thoughts, your partner does as well. It may be wise not to press them for answers right away. Instead, suggest that you both take some time to think about the situation. Decide on a time together of when you will discuss the conflict. Before that time, the both of you should try to make sure that you don’t bring up the conflict.
Prior to the both of you taking some space, agree to write down your thoughts. This will allow both of you to be organized. It will also help you remember what you want to say during your discussion. Many of us are visual learners. Writing things down will allow you to see your thinking process and help you see whether or not you are making sense.
There are many ways to organize your thoughts on paper. You can create charts that you organize into categories. You can organize your thoughts into questions and answers. Below are some questions you may want to ask yourself to guide your thinking.
What is the conflict?
With all the arguments that have accumulated over the course of fighting, it may be difficult to remember why you were fighting in the first place. What is the conflict that you are trying to resolve? What happened that made you upset?
What do you want?
Ponder and take notes on what you want from the situation. What do you want resolved? What do you want from the other person? How can they meet your expectations? What can they do specifically to please you? What are you willing to do for them in the situation?
What are your goals?
This is an excellent reflection question as it allows the both of you to see if your goals align with one another. This question is particularly useful for couples who have been together for a long time. Sometimes as time passes and new experiences happen to you, you may find that your goals will change. These goals may or may not affect your relationship. This would be a great way to find out.
After you have written out your thoughts, it may be useful to gain some advice from an outsider. It is a good idea to have someone look over your thoughts to ensure that they make sense. They can provide you with constructive feedback that will make you consider things you hadn’t before.
Be very picky about who you choose to give you advice. You want to gain insight from someone you trust and understands you well, such as a parent, a best friend, or a sibling. You want to make sure that they have your best interest at heart and won’t be biased. You don’t want to choose someone who has a history of not liking your significant other.
If you can’t find someone you trust enough to look over your thoughts, take a moment to walk away from your work. We tend to see things more clearly when we’ve had an opportunity to be away from it. Just like you’ve given yourself some space before talking to your partner, give yourself some space from what you have written.
Remember that the advice we receive may not always be what we want to hear. Prepare yourself for other people’s opinions. Their perspective may not align with yours, so be understanding and considerate. Respectfully defend your point of view, but know that their point of view may be different from yours.
In this step, you have completed putting your thoughts down on paper. Before you get into the mode of discussion, the first meeting should be to just listen. Find a place that is nice and quiet, without any distractions. Take turns reading out what you wrote without interrupting each other.
Make sure that you are not having a discussion about what the other person has written. Discussing the points right away may lead to another rash argument. Using the same method of giving and taking space, it would be a good idea to step back and collect your thoughts after hearing everything.
Before you meet to listen, ensure that you brush up on good listening skills. It may seem obvious as to what it means to be a good listener, but it can be easily overlooked. Something as simple as not interrupting can be difficult to do, especially if they are saying something you don’t agree with.
Train yourself to be conscious of your listening skills. While speaking to parents, family, and friends, practice making eye contact, facing them, not interrupting, and not fidgeting. Giving your full attention shows that you respect what they have to say. This, in turn, may make it easier for them to consider your point of view with the same respect.
Once you have met with your partner, go back to your thinking spot and write down what they said, or what you can remember. Don’t wait a couple days later to this part. It is important that you do this right away so that you will be able to comment on it as accurately as possible.
After you have written down what they have said, write down your thoughts about it. Explain what their points have in common with yours, and how they differ. Provide constructive feedback and examples to back up your point.
After you’ve written down everything, be sure to revisit it a couple of times before you meet up. It may seem repetitive to constantly look over your thoughts. However, it does help you spot any rash decisions you may have made or something you may have said defensively.
When you and your partner decide to meet again, bring your notes. This will be your opportunity to now say what you wanted to say during the first meeting. Just like the first meeting, take turns speaking. Be very aware of your body language.
Closing off your body by crossing your arms, hunching over, or avoiding eye contact may give off the vibe that you aren’t open to what they have to say. Square off with their shoulders, keep your arms relaxed, and remain steady eye contact will give off the impression that you are open and understanding.
Welcome to the hardest of steps. All of the previous steps were there to prepare you for this moment. This step is probably the most difficult. At this stage, you will ask yourselves hard questions that may make or break the relationship.
Questions you may consider are:
Making final decisions about the relationship will not be easy. The hope is that steps 1-5 are helpful in guiding you make the right decisions. In the end, you and your partner must both be willing to put in effort into reflecting and resolving the relationship conflicts.
The last step is more of an “if needed” step. It is the step you take when you’ve exhausted all your options. Communication and confrontation can be very intimidating and difficult. The tension from all the fighting is sometimes too overwhelming. Although couples may want to resolve their issues, they may not be in the right mindset to do it on their own.
When the fighting becomes understandably too devastating to try and resolve on your own, look to therapists for assistance. Seek out therapists that specialize in relationships. Taking part in couple’s therapy isn’t a sign of weakness as it can be misconstrued.
However, that isn’t the case. Attending couple’s therapy shows a commitment to your relationship. It demonstrates that you and your partner are willing to work on your relationship because there is something there worth fighting for.