In any relationship the ability to manage differences and conflicts helps to determine its long-term success. Disagreements, differences in perspective, values and outsides stresses are a part of life. It’s how you respond and react to them that continues to build and enhance your relationship’s foundations. Although hardly a revolutionary idea, we sometimes need reminders to maintain our ongoing relationships. Here are some tips to keep in mind when conflict arises:
First off, it’s important that you both remember that you care and have genuine concern for each other. Most research on successful relationships suggest that having a consistent ratio of 5 positive to 1 negative interaction helps couples remember this when conflicts arises. You can create this ratio by telling each other you love each other, showing them that you are thinking of them, and providing comfort and support when things get hard.
Secondly, be a fair fighter. Constructive conflict requires following some simple rules.
1) Resist the temptation to swear and name call.
2) Keep calm, and resist the urge to yell when upset.
3) Use “I” messages when communicating what you need. I.e. When I hear you say…. I feel and….. want to or need to….
Following these rules will reduced defensiveness and keep the conversation constructive and cooperative rather hostile and overwhelming. If you are not able to do this consistently, tension builds and acts as a trigger point for escalation into an unmanageable zone.
Thirdly, look for areas of common ground. Admit that you may have made mistakes. It is often better to be happy than it is to be right. Many times relationships get stuck because even though they want the same thing- they disagree about how to get there. There are multiples roads to any destination and sometimes we have to be flexible enough in our thinking to see the value of those other ways.
Finally, be willing to apologize for the things you said or did that were hurtful. Someone has to go first. Taking the first step often leads to a more conciliatory and problem solving tone which can lead to quicker resolution. Even if you don’t think you made a mistake, your partner may and you need to be able to acknowledge it in order forgiveness to take place.
One of the hazards of being in intimate relationships is conflict. Because we are human we can sometimes let our emotions make us lose sight of what is most important. The people we love.
Challenge yourself to be passionate, but not forget the problem solving skills you need to maintain that passion over the long term. You and the people around will all be better off in the long-run if you follow these simple rules.