Conflict Breeds Intimacy
It is natural to experience conflict with your spouse. But it is quite likely that you are uncomfortable dealing with it in part because no one taught you how to use it to bring you closer to the person.
Conflict is normal and should breed intimacy after it is over. When you and your spouse are in disagreement it is important to encourage the conflict and healthy resolution. Here are some tools to help that process.
• When in conflict, listen to your partner. Spend more time listening than talking
• Validate his feelings. Let him know you understand (even if you don’t agree!)
It doesn’t matter who is right. In emotionally healthy relationships, you may actually choose to stop fighting even if you could argue your point for days.
Whenever possible practice saying the following:
• You were right.
• I was wrong.
• I’m sorry or will you forgive me?
• I love you.
These four statements de-escalate a conflict when said genuinely to your partner. He won’t need to argue with you about why he is right. His defenses decrease and you work through the conflicts faster. Don’t expect an apology. You don’t need an apology to move on. As a matter of fact, if you wait for one, you will continue to harbor resentment. An emotionally mature person acknowledges how she contributed to the problem.
• Let your partner know that you recognize and appreciate his strengths. Conflict is resolved more quickly when you balance the conversation with your partner’s strengths and positive qualities (sometimes this takes major thought and rehearsal, but make sure you get it in, because it will make a difference). The last disagreement I had with my husband started with me being frustrated that he continued to do something that really irritated me but what happened was the argument flipped to my parental tone of voice. Even though I could have disregarded his rebuttal and remained steadfast with my complaint, I decided to honor his concerns, validate his feelings, and let the rest go. I had “faith” that he really heard my initial concerns: o)
• Remember when you use reflective listening with your partner, don’t get defensive! Use the statement, “This isn’t about me, this is about him.” Continue to work with conflict by using this technique. It will keep you from feeling attacked, which is a normal reaction in conflict.
• Whenever possible and appropriate, touch your partner while in conflict as long as he will let you. A physical connection creates an unconscious connection that solidifies the relationship.
• Lastly, after you have discussed the conflict, give each other some breathing room. Go do something that is active. Exercise, clean the house, do anything that externalizes your feelings. Take some time-outs as it gives both of you time to process the information. Ask your partner if you can table the discussion for an hour or two or a day. When you return you should be calmer and more solution-oriented.
The toughest part about conflict is feeling confident that you can work things out. It’s important to convey that to your partner. One of the best ways to do that is to resume your normal life and not let the conflict stop you from being close. Couples work through conflict quicker when they don’t hold it over each other’s heads. Practice using the tools of conflict and watch your relationship grow!