Conflict is normal in every type of relationship – from business to personal, and especially intimate relationships. Every couple goes through it. This is for a number of reasons including the fact that when you enter into a relationship, it isn’t just between two people. It’s between two unique personalities, shaped by unique circumstances.
Conflict can arise when we feel threatened. It’s not about physical danger but relates more to our needs, wants, desires and, most importantly, our expectations of the other person.
What Really Matters
As stated above, conflict is normal. Of course, it’s not normal if the conflict is frequent and severe. But occasional conflict happens to all couples.
How you manage and handle that conflict within your relationships, though, is the key to a healthy one. If you or your partner are prone to losing your temper, getting angry and becoming defensive, things can become very difficult – especially in the long-term.
How to Manage Conflict Effectively
Bernard Golden, PhD and writer for Psychology Today writes about 7 steps to effectively manage the conflict in your relationship.
He begins with sound advice on when to handle conflict.
As a beginning point, remember that the worst time to argue is when you’re furiously angry–a moment when you feel threatened and your body is in high alert. During such moments, you’re more likely to focus on your own grievances and be unavailable to hear those of your partner.
The following guidelines offer a clear approach to dealing with conflict—one that’s rooted in mindfulness, self-awareness, and compassion for yourself and your partner. I encourage you to discuss these guidelines with your partner and sign a pledge as a commitment to follow them.
Golden goes on to list 7 guidelines that can help.
- Commit to Practicing Healthy Anger
- This involves key skills related to communication – listening, sharing in negotiation, and focusing on specific behaviours, not global statements
- Only Discuss Differences When Calm, Stop if Things Get Too Agitated
- Set limits on the level of “discomfort” you’re both ok with and stop for the moment if things get to be too much
- Have a “safe word”
- Agree on a phrase that both of you can use when you need to disengage from the discussion because things are becoming too much.
- Get Back to Normal
- Do your best to resume the activity that was planned prior to the conflict arising
- Revisit the Discussion Later
- Agree to resume your discussion at a later time when you’re both calm and collected
- Be Mindful of Time Limits
- Golden recommends a time limit of 30-40 minutes for these discussions. Don’t let them drag on forever.
- Do Not Argue in the Bedroom
- Arguing in the bedroom can lead to an association of conflict, tension and anger with sleep or physical intimacy – and no one wants that.
These guidelines can help you both deal with conflict better. It’s a good idea to discuss them with your partner so you’re both on the same page of how to act when conflict does arise. Agree to both abide by these rules and hopefully things will resolve easier and more constructively.
Here’s what BestMarraiges’ own Darren Wilk has to say about this:
[The above] reflects many principles in the Gottman method we use. We always say to not avoid conflict as it is necessary for growth as a couple.
“If you avoid conflict , you avoid closeness.”
Couples should get into the habit of bringing up small complaints on a regular basis, in a gentle way, because this is how needs can get met. And partners are not mind-readers.
By gentle we mean focusing on your feelings about the situation, and not about how your partner is the problem.
If you or your partner are unable to follow these guidelines or arguments and conflict become far too intense/angry, far too often you may benefit from couples therapy. Call us today at 1-604-539-5277 to speak confidentially with a Gottman-certified couples therapist. Just speaking with someone who is qualified can help immensely.