We all have triggers, blind spots, or vulnerabilities that fuel conflict. The best thing we can do is be aware of them, take responsibility for them, and learn how to work with them effectively.
We can’t avoid conflict, but we can learn how to handle it better. Rather than viewing conflicts from a zero-sum position, where one wins and one loses, we can benefit from a paradigm shift that allows us to see our relationships as two people standing shoulder to shoulder, looking together at the problem. Below are some tips to help improve our relationships:
Most of us don’t have adequate communication skills going into a committed relationship. It is valuable to practice “X, Y, Z” statements, rather than finger pointing: “When you did X, in situation Y, I felt Z.” For example, calmly telling our spouse that when they left their clothes on the bathroom floor in the morning because they were late for work, we felt resentful because they didn’t notice that we were busy too. This could lead to a better outcome than if we were to reactively lash out and accuse them of being a messy and careless slob. “‘You’ statements invite defensiveness and put walls up. So too do words such as “always” or “never.”
Understanding our past and the family we grew up in, who we are now and what we value, can help us to understand what fuels conflicts. That’s why it can help to periodically ask ourself questions and journal on topics such as:
•What most attracted us to the other at the start of our relationship?
•Which moments stand out as the best ones of the relationship?
•How have we weathered severe stresses?
•Have we ever thought about breaking up?
•What has our sex life been like during the relationship.
•What makes us laugh and cry? •What are we passionate about?
•How did our family or any relationship affect our growth?
•What makes us mad?
•What are our defining moments?
•What are our spiritual beliefs and how do they affect our daily and life choices?
•What are our priorities?
•How would we define success?
•What makes us feel better when we are sad?
•What are we the most proud of?
•What do we think strengths and weaknesses are?
•How do we recharge our emotional batteries?
Once we learn to identify what we prioritize, what make us happy and what values we hold, then we will be in a much stronger position to be able to navigate conflict. All the communication skills in the world won’t help, if we haven’t learned how to take accountability for our own issues and identify what makes a compatible partner.