Relating in Relationships
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor
22nd May, 20130 Comments
Relationships when Conflicts Arise
Conflict and disagreement in a relationship are not only normal but can, perhaps surprisingly, be a good thing; if resolved, they can actually strengthen a relationship. If you have been in a relationship you will recognise that the differences between yourself and your partner can lead to tensions and you inevitably clash.
Resolving problems requires that you both be honest about the problems that you face and that, as well as being able to take responsibility for your own actions, you can also listen to your partner in a way in which you would expect to be listened to yourself.
Of course, there are some unwritten rules for good conflict; the first is to be aware of how your partner usually resolves conflicts. Perhaps they come from a family where they didn’t talk about sex, or the man never talked about his feelings. Knowing their background can help to frame questions so that your partner is less threatened by them.
Of course it’s very easy to get angry quickly and demand that your partner see your point of view; yet good communication requires that both of you listen and try to understand the other’s perspective. Through this approach there may be collaborative approaches to problems that you had not considered. It is right and proper that you should express anger, but doing it in an assertive rather than an explosive way (however frustrated you feel) again lets your partner hear the message and not criticise the behaviour.
It is important to stick to the point; if you start to talk about everything at once it can feel like an all-out attack, and your partner will retreat to protect themselves. Remember the old adage that to eat an elephant you should proceed one bite at a time.
Most of us want to maintain the relationship, so trying to be fair and respectful to your partner will serve you best in the long run. Fighting fair includes a “statute of limitations” on past misdemeanours. If one of you came home drunk five years ago from a work's night out and woke up the mother-in-law who was staying that weekend, it should have been discussed then; don’t bring it up every time you have a fight. If it needs resolving, resolve it and leave it in the past.
In short, you should have a shared vision of your relationship and let each other know that you appreciate what the other needs. Understand that everything cannot be perfect and that mistakes will be made. Negotiate and compromise on the jugular issues in your relationship. There is little point in demanding that your partner change, as ultimatums put backs up; show how you will both benefit from the change.
Finally, if you really can’t resolve your problems, a counsellor can often make a big difference and will work with you to find ways in which you can communicate and get a fulfilling relationship back. Sometimes it is that kick-start that allows you to remember why you fell in love in the first place.
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