Conflict Can Strengthen Your Relationship
February 7, 2023
By: April Lincoln, MSW, LCSW, CSIT, CEAP, MAC, SAP
Conflict in any relationship is a given and unavoidable. Often, we have a dispute with our significant other about something small, and it turns into an explosive disagreement riddled with all our wrongdoings since the beginning of the relationship, which ends with one or both of you stomping away, with No resolution in sight. It's arguments like this that will slowly tear a couple apart. So how do we prevent a small debate over who will make dinner or take the dog to the vet from turning into a substantial explosive altercation? The key is to use conflict as an opportunity to bring you as a couple closer together; if we view the conflict as an opportunity instead of something to be avoided, the results will be more positive.
Conflict is an opportunity to strengthen a relationship, bringing two people closer together and enabling them to understand better what their partner needs and wants in the relationship. During many arguments, each person feels attacked and will focus on defending themselves. This defensiveness takes away from resolving the problem, leading to more conflict. Instead of reacting to defend yourself, listen to understand what your partner is trying to convey to you. Instead of responding and becoming defensive, listen to understand. Listen to understand what it is your partner needs.
According to Dr. John Gottman of the Gottman Institute, 60% of arguments never will get resolved; which is why couples need to learn to listen to understand; however, it is necessary to note that listening to understand isn't the same as agreeing. Just because you are trying to clearly understand your partner doesn't mean you have to agree with them. But understanding their perspective will help give your insight into how they perceive the situation. To gain this understanding, ask questions of them to gain a better understanding. Ask them questions such as:
- · Tell me more about that.
- · What solutions work for both of us?
- · What would you like to see happen?
- · What needs to happen for us to be able to move forward?
- · What is it about this issue that is so important to you?
Take turns asking each other questions to learn more about your partner's needs. If you feel yourself heating up during the dispute, take a moment and walk away from the situation until you calm down and come back and try again. A counselor may be in order if you cannot calmly and rationally discuss your issues. There is no shame in seeking help from a professional to learn strategies to improve your communication as a couple. A professional can show you how to use conflict to strengthen your relationship.