Conflicts are a big part of relationships and it’s almost impossible to run away from it. If you are in a relationship currently, I’m sure you have already figured that out by now. This is because both parties in any relationship come with different personalities, backgrounds and life experiences so conflict is inevitable.
In my coaching experience, the top 3 causes for conflicts in relationships are;
- Misalignment: This refers to differences in values, ideals and core beliefs.
- Miscommunication: This refers to a breakdown in listening and understanding.
- Unmet expectations: These is usually a result of unexpressed expectations.
Interestingly, the good thing about conflict is that they can be an opportunity for intimacy and growth for both of you, but this only happens if you guys learn how to resolve them appropriately. On the other hand, where you guys don’t resolve your issues well, they can worsen with time, lead to resentment and cause a buildup of even more conflict.
Remember how you guys usually go from issue to issue over seemingly trivial issues and then you wonder what’s even wrong with two of you? That’s a textbook example of what happens when partners haven’t learnt how to resolve conflicts well.
I can almost guess your exact thoughts right now is somewhere along the lines of “so when are we going to learn how to actually resolve conflicts?”
LOL! I’ll get to that in a few paragraphs. I just want to talk about 4 habits you want avoid in your relationship if you want it to last. These habits are so important that relationship researchers say once you can spot all of four of them showing up consistently, they can accurately predict the end of that relationship except something is done.
4 Habits To Avoid In Your Relationship
- Personal Criticism: This happens when a person’s character and person is being attacked, rather than the specific fault. For example, when you tell your partner, “You’re such a selfish person” because they didn’t buy you lunch, that’s personal criticism. A better way of voicing your complain would have been to tell them how you felt when they didn’t buy you lunch. If either of you has a habit of personal criticism, you can replace it by stating your complaints directing using “I” statements instead of “You” statements. E.g. “I didn’t like that you made me wait 2 hours in the mall before you showed up” sounds better than “You were late! I am tired of all this nonsense oh!”
- Defensiveness: This happens when one person transfers blame to the other person whenever they are called out on some wrongdoing. An example could be asking why your partner didn’t call you too when they mention that you didn’t call them all day. If you have a habit of being defensive, learn to take responsibility for your actions and apologize when you are wrong.
- Contempt: Contempt refers to disrespect for another person’s feelings, thoughts and opinions. When you make your partner feel like what they have to say doesn’t make sense, that’s contempt and it can be very dangerous. To stop contempt from developing in your relationship, intentionally build a culture of respect and appreciation for one another.
- Stonewalling: This refers to an emotional shutdown where one partner doesn’t care what happens in the relationship again. It’s what you do when you are fed up. Like the name implies, it’s like building up a stone wall between both of you and then you can’t get through emotionally to each other again. You can prevent stonewalling from developing by intentionally taking a timeout in moments of high emotional tension.
That being said, let’s look at how to actually resolve conflicts when they do happen.
- Lose the need to be right. The goal is not to win an argument, the goal is to settle your issues so never forget that. You’re both on the same team here so there are no winners or losers.
- Learn to apologize. You are never going to be perfect so stop pretending to be. But you can always take responsibility for your actions. Acknowledge where you are wrong and try not to repeat the same mistakes. And by the way, you do not need to understand your partner’s hurt before you can apologize to them. If they say it’s hurtful, then it probably is.
- Learn to listen. Active listening can literally save your relationship. That means not listening to respond or give a retort but actually listening to understand. The point is to see things from their perspective so you can understand where they are coming from. Ask questions like “Is this what you mean?” to be sure that you get what they are saying correctly?
- Avoid defensive listening. This is what happens when you maximize the other person’s fault and minimize yours. You are not in a law court so you don’t need to be defensive. Just listen to what your partner saying. And also, try not to do cross complaining – that thing you do when you bring up complaints of your own as soon as the other person complains of something you’ve done.
- Avoid blanket statements. As much as you can, stop using blanket statements like “never” or “always” to express a momentary complain. E.g., saying “You never call me” or “You are always late.” Most of the time, they are never 100% true and your partner can spot that leaving them unresponsive to the actual behavior you want to complain about.
- Don’t weaponize your words. Words are very powerful, and you shouldn’t hurt your partner with them just because of a temporary argument. The hurt will last far longer than you will ever know.
- Express how you feel using “I” statements rather than “You” statements. This helps to reduce tension, become less defensive and properly able to clarify their exact intentions. For example, say something like “I felt bad when you didn’t get me the shoes I wanted for my birthday.” Instead of “You forgot to buy me the shoes I wanted for my birthday.”
- Express your expectations. Unmet expectations are a big cause for conflict in any relationship, and a big cause of unmet expectations are unsaid expectations. So let your partner know the things you expect them to do in your relationship. Let them know your desires and needs. If they were perfect they would know all of it, but I think you’ve figured out that this person you’re with isn’t perfect so indulge them.
- Accept your partner’s differences. Chances are high that your partner has a different personality to yours. That’s totally fine. Don’t try to make them another you, just accept them for who they are and love them for it. Except it’s a fundamental value system or core belief that contradicts yours, then you can discuss that. But don’t try to change your partner into an extrovert when they’d rather stay home.
- Don’t run away from issues. Never fall into the temptation of trying to use gifts or sex as a way to avoid dealing with issues. That will only breed resentment in your partner. What’s worse, dismissing their issues with sarcasm. Never do that.
- Learn to forgive. There are no lasting relationships that are built without the blocks of forgiveness. We have already established that your partner is imperfect, so they are going to say and do stupid stuff to you. Learn to forgive and let go of it so it doesn’t become a crutch in your relationship.
- Finally, sometimes you will have to reach a temporary compromise when you are both not making a headway with your issue. That means you are willing to suspend discussions on that particular topic until another mutually agree time. This gives both of you the chance to calm your emotions and not say/do things you can’t take back.
Thank you for reading and I hope this was practical enough for you to apply. I should mention that relationships work because the two people interested in making them work are on the same page. So don’t forget to send your partner here when you are done.
If you are stuck in a difficult relationship and you both need some help navigating your issues, or maybe you just want to learn how to love each other better, I have a relationship coaching plan where I help couples like you do just that. It’s really affordable and you get the first session free – you can find more information here.
And while you are still here, I have a weekly newsletter where I put out weekly content targeted at helping my readers live emotionally healthy lives. Please subscribe and share with your friends.