How Far Is Too Far to Bend?

Love, Heartbreak

Five ways to end a fight with dignity and with your relationship intact.

What's the cost of keeping the peace in your relationship? If you've ever had an argument or tense stand-off with the one you love, ask yourself how flexible you should (or shouldn't) be and your answer largely depends on your conflict comfort level. If you're used to shouting it out and defending your "side," then flexibility may seem to you like an all-out surrender. But, if you nearly have a panic attack just thinking about arguing with your partner, you're probably quite willing to bend a little (or a lot) to end the conflict and regain harmony.

Whether and how much you'll bend also depends on the issue. You may be far more flexible about where to go on vacation and not so much about your partner's porn habit. Aside from the added intensity of hot button issues, which vary for everyone, you probably lean in one direction or the other. Of course, there are serious problems with both of these reactions to conflict and few of us are one extreme all of the time.

What's most important is for you to become aware of your usual reaction when a disagreement comes up. Whether you and your partner are deadlocked on a financial, parenting, sex, trust or any other kind of question, notice what you do and what effect that has on your partner and your relationship.

When you become utterly inflexible, your partner is likely to match your rigidity. The problem never gets resolved and the two of you are farther apart than before. When you throw up your arms in surrender and frequently say, "Whatever you want, dear," the results aren't healthy either. In the short term, your partner gets his or her way and a battle is prevented, but the gulf between you gets bigger. You aren't being honest, which undermines trust and connection and leaves you feeling unheard, disrespected and unimportant.

You end up frustrated, angry and resentful because your needs aren't being acknowledged or met and your partner doesn't understand why. What makes all of this even more treacherous is that most of us simply react when a tense situation comes up. We stubbornly dig in our heels or we placate and agree to anything without much awareness of what we're actually doing.

The question beneath it all remains..... “How far is too far to bend?”

These 3 signs could mean you've gone too far:

1. You're violating your core values.

When you suddenly realize that you're acting against what you deeply believe in and hold dear, that's an indicator you've crossed a dangerous line. You shouldn't have to lose yourself just to bring back harmony with your partner.

2. Ultimatums and threats have been uttered.

There's a difference between an ultimatum/threat and a firm boundary. When you agree only because your partner threatens to pack up and leave if you don't, step back and assess whether or not you're being manipulated.

3. Keeping the peace overrides everything.

There's nothing wrong with working to resolve a conflict, except when it's at the expense of everything else. When you pretend to be okay with a decision or you say "yes" just to stave off an argument, that's not really keeping the peace. That's you betraying both your partner and yourself. 

Follow these five guidelines to maintain your dignity and integrity as you resolve a dispute:

1. Remember to breathe.

Never underestimate the power of a calm and clear approach to a problem. Take a deep breath (time out) when things gets tense. Notice the positive difference it makes when you do.

2. Write down what your ultimate goal is on this issue.

It's easy to "forget" what you really want from a situation in the middle of a heated or tense conversation. Before you start talking, write down what your ultimate goal is and be specific. This will help you stay on track and focused.

3. Know your non-negotiables.

Knowing what your ultimate goal is can include being aware of your non-negotiables. These are the things you absolutely will not be flexible about. This shows where you have wiggle room and where you don't.

4. Ask questions when you're uncertain.

Remind yourself to get curious as you talk with your partner about the situation that's on the table. Instead of assuming you already know his or her "side," really listen. Then ask questions like, "Please help me understand...."

5. Be patient and willing to explain your idea.

Maybe you've already told your partner how you feel and what you want dozens of times. Regardless, go inside yourself and find patience. Perhaps there's a new way you can communicate what is really important to you and why. Maybe your partner has not been ready to listen until now. This is the time when you both can really hear one another and start working together. The words you choose to use when talking about tricky topics really makes a difference. The end to the conflict and head-butting may be nearer than you think.

Find out which words and phrases push your partner away and which ones bring you two closer and help you resolve conflicts. We explain more in this free video.