Relationship Conflict is Inevitable: What Are You Going to Do With It?
“No relationship is perfect – because there is no such thing as perfect.” But as Ron and Cathy Tijerina are quick to point out, “A relationship can be permanent.” Let’s face it, every relationship has conflict. It’s unavoidable. Being physically separated from your partner doesn’t make this any easier. So, if you want a permanent relationship, you need to recognize the three sources of conflict and have an appropriate strategy for each.
Dr. Marni Feurman, an affiliate at the Gottman Institute, has identified the three sources of conflict as:
- Current Conflict: Issues that you and your loved one are dealing with right now
- Attachment Injury: Triggers from past injuries that provoke a reaction
- Gridlock: Stuff where you and your partner are never going to agree
There is a strategy that you can use to respond to each kind of conflict. For example:
The key is to listen before you talk. Make sure both you and your partner have described how you see the situation before anyone tries to come up with a solution. A great resource to develop this skill is a program called Couple Communication. Check out how to get involved with that program here.
You’ve got to learn how to recover after pushing each other’s buttons. When people react, it’s usually because a button was pushed, a hurtful word was said, or a reminder of past failure was triggered. When this happens, acknowledge it and apologize. Avoiding negativity will help to de-escalate the situation. The High Five book has a chapter devoted to the healing power of forgiveness. Check it out here.
You may have thought he was the perfect guy when you first met, but now reality has set in. Just because you see your partner differently than you once did, doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed. The truth is, no matter how similar two people may seem, there will always be differences in values and beliefs. Like the old song goes, “There ain’t no good guy. There ain’t no bad guy. It’s just you and me, and we just disagree.” Your relationship can not only survive, but thrive, despite your differences. But in order to make this happen, you must learn to accept your partner without trying to change them. Create a safe space for each other, where you can be yourselves and make small compromises that help you both to succeed. Check out Couple Communication II for more information.
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