If you’re in a relationship, then chances are you’ve had at least one argument with your partner. Unfortunately, this comes with the territory. But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
People tend to avoid drama because they think that it will be the inevitable collapse in a good relationship. Many couples think that if they close their eyes and click their heels together, the problems will dissolve themselves.
“Engaging in conflict isn’t going to end the relationship, it’s avoiding the conflict [that might],” said Michael Batshaw, a New York City based psychologist who specializes in couples.
Terri Orbuch, Ph.D and relationship expert, agrees with Batshaw. In Orbuch’s 24-year research study with the same couples found that if you don’t address the small issues in your relationship, they just manifest into bigger problems that become extremely difficult to tackle.
But how do you make sure that conflict helps the relationship, instead of destroying it?
Good news is there are many helpful tips that can turn drama into constructive resolutions that will assist in strengthening the relationship.
Listen to your Partner
Communication is key to resolving conflict. According to Batshaw, fully listening to your partner without building a case in your head of how he or she is wrong is essential. Couples who are stuck in conflict are unable to empathize with their partner.
This is the key to understanding yourself and others. If you aren’t aware of how you feel, or why you’re feeling that way, then you will have a difficult time communicating effectively and resolving disagreements.
Although this may sound simple, many people tend to ignore strong emotions like anger, sadness, and fear. A person’s ability to handle conflict, however, depends on being connected to these feelings. If you’re afraid of strong emotions, your ability to face and resolve differences will be impaired.
If Emotions Flare, Take a Break
Even though it’s essential that both individuals remain calm during a conflict, it’s realistic to assume that one-person will eventually become upset, frustrated, or irritated. If you find yourself becoming emotional, take a break to calm down.
“If you can’t calm down, save the discussion for another day,” said Batshaw.
Discuss with your partner what is and isn’t acceptable behavior during a conflict. Examples would be no cursing, no physical interaction, no yelling or screaming. Just like in basketball, as soon as somebody steps out of bounds, the play stops.
An apology can go a long way. People make mistakes ⎯ it’s inevitable. But acknowledging those mistakes and apologizing for your part in the argument can alleviate the tension between you and your partner.
“You don’t have to say ‘I’m sorry I said that,’ but it can be as simple as ‘I’m sorry we’re fighting.’”
In general, two people can’t be expected to agree on everything. Being able to manage and relieve stress in the moment is the key to staying balanced, focused, and in control.
Agree to disagree.