5 ways to get through conflict in relationships
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Nilom Shah, Counseling Psychologist Nilom B Shah is a Mental Health...
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Relationships are truly wonderful. It’s great to have someone who listens to your endless rants about workday mishaps, someone with whom you can share your memes, food, and troubles alike. This someone celebrates your wins, stands by your side, and supports you through it all. It’s like having a companion, a friend, and a partner all rolled into one.
But that doesn’t mean relationships are all sunshine and sweetness. In fact, sometimes they can be quite the opposite. After the initial euphoric phase of a relationship fizzles, you may start noticing differences in opinions, and these can sometimes lead to conflicts. Conflicts are a normal and inevitable part of any relationship.
And navigating conflicts is not a walk in the park. As humans, we tend to believe that our perspective on a situation is the most objective (and reasonable) one. For instance, if your partner is tired and drained, your instinct might be to suggest they take a nap, while they, on the other hand, prefer to blow off steam through an intense workout. This may seem counterproductive to you but it’s something your partner genuinely enjoys. Such differences in preference can potentially give rise to conflicts.
And when their frequency and intensity increase, your relationship takes the brunt of it — bitter arguments, fights, and sometimes even fallouts. But on the bright side, when resolved carefully, conflicts can strengthen relationships by addressing the underlying differences that caused them.
Below are 5 ways you can get through conflicts in relationships sensibly, through proper communication, kindness, and consideration.
1. Cut to the chase
When conflicts arise, we usually resort to one of these two actions: drama or withdrawal. Paradoxically, both indicate signs of poor communication. Drama tends to aggravate the situation and can lead to ugly fights, while withdrawal completely blocks any meaningful resolution of conflict.
Instead, you need to get to the root of the problem by having open and direct conversations, leaving no room for guesswork. Think of it. No one wants the same issues surfacing episodically in arguments—it’s disappointing and consuming, to say the least. So tackle the core problem by being direct, instead of using vague language with hidden agendas to express your often short-lived frustration.
2. Never use absolutes
The worst possible way to deal with an argument is by using phrases like “you never” or “you always.” These expressions are often exaggerated and can trigger your partner to get into a defensive mode, diverting the focus from the conflict altogether. For instance, they may react by listing all the instances where your argument doesn’t seem to hold, which further derails the conversation.
A more tangible approach would be to use sentences that start with ‘I’. Sentences like ‘I didn’t like it when you said X’ or ‘I felt bad when you did Y.’ Sentences centered around “I” focus on how you feel without blaming your partner for it.
3. Steer clear of assumptions
Assumptions actually stem from the belief that you know your partner too well. But no matter how much you do, it’s only sensible to consider their side of the argument too. Let this sink in – when you make assumptions, you’re not reacting to your partner’s actual intentions but rather to your own interpretation of their intentions. This can lead to a shaky foundation for understanding the situation.
Psychotherapist and Psychiatrist, Dr. Anjali Chhabria, in an article with Vogue India, says, “Get your doubts and assumptions cleared before they become a nagging thought and a point for argument.”
To stay away from assumptions, try asking questions and listening actively. Some questions you could consider asking are:
– Where’s this coming from?
– What did you mean when you said X?
– What were your intentions in doing/saying Y?
4. Choose your battles
We are all short of time and energy, and the only way to use them both wisely is by choosing our battles carefully. Understand that not every disagreement is worth a heated argument. For instance, do you really need to debate why your partner picked a red collar for your Labrador instead of the usual caramel brown? Probably not. Understanding when to let things go (and which things to let go) is a sign of emotional maturity and can help preserve harmony in relationships.
Before engaging in conflict, ask yourself whether the issue truly matters in the long run. If it’s an inane concern, consider whether it’s worth the potential damage to your relationship. If it’s not, let it go.
5. Agree to disagree
“How you handle your differences is more important than finding your similarities,” writes storyteller and former monk Jay Shetty in his book “8 Rules of Love.” It only goes to explain that we are all unique individuals with different perspectives and outlooks toward the various aspects of life. Not all conflicts will have a clear resolution, and that’s okay.
Sometimes, it’s best to agree to disagree. That means, accepting that you and your partner may have differing opinions or values on certain matters. And that’s perfectly normal, considering that both of you have been shaped by distinct upbringings, life circumstances, and moral values. Acknowledging these differences and finding a way to coexist peacefully is the key to being content in relationships and embracing the enormity of it.
We hope that these ways will help you address conflicts in your relationships with more ease. However, understand that when conflicting beliefs start to affect your core values, it’s time to reiterate your relationship and seek guidance from a relationship expert for more sustainable advice.