THE TRUTH ABOUT CONFLICT
Conflict is inevitable. All couples have conflict. But it’s how you handle that conflict that defines the quality of your relationship. The decision to use conflict creatively to enhance your relationship and bring you closer is a conscious choice. Disagreements are a viable and healthy part of relationships. Working through a conflict can lead couples to a valuable opportunity to achieve deeper understanding of themselves and each other, drawing them closer together rather than pushing them farther apart.
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VIVA LA DIFFERENCE
Couples are attracted by both their similarities and differences. Many of the differences are seen as assets as there is hope that one’s good qualities will pass on to the other. However, over time, some of the differences become liabilities and can cause irritation or conflict.
Dialogue: Identify ways you and your partner are different. Which differences are assets? Which differences are liabilities? How can you build on the assets and keep irritating differences from becoming major conflict issues?
WHAT ABOUT ANGER?
It’s the anger generated in conflict that makes conflict hard to manage. Anger is a normal human response. When a person feels threatened, frustrated or attacked the body triggers a defensive reaction. Anger is powerful. It’s a source of energy, like gasoline, that is explosive and destructive if mishandled. However, the same energy properly managed has enormous potential for constructive uses, such as make-up sex! How we behave when angry is largely learned through years of observation and experiences with family, friends, television and other life experiences.
Dialogue: How was anger expressed in your home growing up? How was anger resolved? How do you feel when your partner gets angry with you? Why do you think you feel this way? What can you learn about each other’s past that can help minimize conflict in the future?
ANGER IS A SECONDARY EMOTION
We must look beyond the “smoke screen” of anger and recognize deeper feelings. Anger results when our sense of security is threatened, our self-esteem damaged and our feelings hurt. Often anger is based on misinterpretation of words or actions. After anger has subsided, carefully examine the anger-producing situation in an atmosphere of openness and honesty.
Dialogue: What happened just before the incident? What triggered the anger? What else was I feeling (guilt, fatigue, overwhelmed, insecure)? What did I want or hope my partner would say or do? How can we identify and communicate our primary feelings to each other in order to keep conflict from escalating?
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BREAKING OLD PATTERNS
The two most common (and destructive) ways of dealing with anger are to suppress (swallow it) or vent (spew it). Suppressing anger results in silence, sulking, withdrawing. Venting results in yelling, criticizing, blaming. Neither keeping it all in nor letting it all out brings a couple closer. We can learn to break old patterns and develop more effective ways to handle anger.