First off, would you consider yourself to be someone who thinks a relationship is 'real' only after it has undergone fights? If yes, welcome to the majority and the sad reality.
I am calling bullshit on those stupid quotes which fancily spell out, that couples who fight the most, are the most in love. The problem lies in our inadequacy to hone our conflict resolution skills on an everyday basis. At the core of it, conflicts arise from differences. These differences can be as trivial as wanting to dine in at your favorite restaurant rather than your SO's choice for date night or going against your hard-headed orthodox parent's wishes and pursuing your own career choice. (yeah, well we've all been there)
I'd want you to know that I am not limiting this article to just romantic relationships rather other personal relationships too.
Here are 3 phases (which can also be ways) of handling conflicts in relationships, effectively.
Phase 1: Framing the issue
There is always a better way of solving problems. In case of issues that make you feel insecure or flare up your self-esteem the wrong way, you should be conscious enough to frame your issues or someone else's disagreements in the right manner.
Scenario 1: You're the initiator: Before you begin talking about how bad things made you feel, stop, and think for once if the manner you would go about expressing yourself, would hurt your partner and make them feel bad. Avoid gross generalizations such as 'never' and 'always'! "You NEVER listen to me." or "You ALWAYS do this." Nope.
This opens doors for counter-arguments and defensive behavior from the other party, which eventually will come down to people acknowledging the issue as a personal attack. Instead, be kind and concerned and treat every problem as a unique situation influenced by its own set of factors.
Say, you have an issue with hanging out with your partner's friends. Instead of acting out belligerently and proclaiming that their friends are the worst and that you would never hang out with them ever again, how about you, in a soft tone, point out that one particular friend, who made you feel embarrassed. Also, if, perhaps, your partner could be more mindful of it in the future?
Scenario 2: You're the listener: Everyone is entitled to feel and express their emotions for these represent their deep-seated fears, hopes, insecurities, or maybe aspirations. It is your job to provide them a safe space to empower them to express themselves clearly. Empathize and try to understand the cause for the outburst. Is what they are showing, stemming from an actual issue or just a side effect of maybe work woes, financial insecurity, or just a bad day?
Phase 2: Understanding and listening actively
When you listen to someone, do you find yourself thinking about your response, or are you gauging their body language to sense their emotions in totality? If you don't do the second one, you do not engage in active listening - an essential aspect of all mindful conversations. While immersed in your own defense barriers, it becomes easy to completely miss out on the other person's perspective.
When the problem is out in the open, both parties need not jump into the argument but rather sit back and understand where the disconnect lies. Try paraphrasing the problem to make sure that there indeed is no misunderstanding. What this also does is make the other party feel heard.
Phase 3: Solving (and using Timeouts)
In any personal relationship, egos should never come into play. An apology can go a long way provided; the entire situation isn't repeated again. In the times where there is no one party in the wrong, compromise to find the middle ground.
Your choice for Indian takeout today can definitely mean SO's Chinese tomorrow. Your one-year deadline to pursue your hobbies can definitely translate to a relaxed mind for your parents.
If you sense that the disagreement is getting out of hand, exit the conversation by saying something on the lines, "I'm just too angry and cannot think through this. Please let's talk about this later." Such breathing spaces allow both parties to re-evaluate their priorities and even arriving at a productive end to the issue.
Even though there is a disagreement going on, make sure you treat and are treated with respect. If your partner curses at you, call you names or ridicules you, tell them to stop. Partners who are always criticizing the other person's character, or shutting down during arguments rather than working through conflict respectfully, should reassess their relationships.
Love is Respect. Period.
Conflicts are, in fact, an opportunity for growth. In the times you can successfully navigate such differences, you build trust and a sense of confidence that your relationship can survive such challenges. However, remember that not all conflicts are solvable. But it is these inevitable conflicts which help us realize our deal-breakers. Another time to write on this, maybe.
On that note, remember that disagreements are cool, but arguments aren't.
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