Go to your corners and come out loving
Conflict in relationships can be hard to handle - that moment when you can’t understand why your partner would do that, would think that or would expect that of you. You almost can’t stand to be in the same room, anger and frustration takes over.
Often there then comes that long dark tea time of the soul moment where you don’t talk to each other, or are over courteous being very exact in your communication not wishing to show weakness, not wishing to allow them back in.
In reality all couples bicker, argue, hold grudges and have repressed anger with one another’s behaviour. Yet conflict in a relationship is good, they allow couples to resolve problems rather than letting them fester for days, weeks and even years. In reality all couples need a way to fight, in a way that puts their relationship first.
Many of us are anxious about conflict because we think of it as a contest, rather like a boxing match or a judo bout. There will be a winner and a loser. You and our partner go at it, trying to beat the other into submission. You will find on this site and elsewhere practical ways in which you and your partner can communicate better when trying to explain what the issues are. Simple things like taking turns to speak, agreeing in advance how long the argument will go on for and repeating back what your partner said to show that you have heard and understood what was said. Yet there is a deeper problem.
When we argue we often fail to talk about our feelings, perhaps because we are scared of being vulnerable, perhaps because it is easier to prove things as in a court: “You spend too much time at the office!" “We never have sex!” “You never pick your clothes off the bedroom floor!" In reality these arguments are about spending too little time with 'me', as well as intimacy and fairness. Yet these are harder to talk about.
Is there a secret then to fighting in a loving way? As one author put it “I believe in fighting for a relationship but I don't believe in fighting alone”. It’s about both of you recognising that as a couple there are going to be disagreements, it’s how you choose to handle those that determine the success of the relationship. You need to be able to listen to criticism of yourself and be able to offer it in a safe environment. In reality it is about changing that paradigm from conflict as a win-lose option, to one where you are working out the best option for both of you in your relationship.
There are many counsellors and counselling services throughout the country that can help you on this journey. Yet the first steps are simple, improve the quality of communication between you and your partner.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.