What’s the secret to a happy marriage? Is it sexy lingerie and rose petals strewn over a king size bed? A diamond ring every anniversary? Separate His and Hers vacations? Although all of the above will certainly help, the art of conflict resolution is the true key to a lasting and happy relationship.
Conflict is inevitable in life. With your boss, colleague, neighbor, parent, sibling, children; but the hottest buttons always seem to be the ones your partner hits.
Some of the more common and least effective ways of dealing with conflict are:
The Silent Treatment
You keep quiet while your eyes burn into him like laser-hot beams, unfortunately you’re not from the planet Krypton so it has the same searing intensity of yesterday’s Jell-O. You remain uncommunicative except when asked if anything is wrong and you reply, “Nothing.” This requires a lot of patience and controlled fuming, especially if business travel takes him out of the picture for a few days. This can also cause consecutive nights of insomnia as you lie awake, tossing with righteous indignation, while he at the same time is thinking “ZZZzzzzzz…”
Accusations wrapped up in judgments, strung together with blame spew out beginning with the most current slight to the time when he forgot to put the toilet seat down 18 months ago. Phrases like “Always,” “You never,” “I’m the one who has to do everything…” are flung violently about like daggers.
You grudgingly submit to your partner’s decision. This “sacrifice” is not without a price though. Silent resentment builds up over time and walls forms, cementing the relationship apart. What starts out as a small problem can detonate your seething mass of unresolved emotions and explode unexpectedly like a fireball.
Make Love Not War
Successful conflict resolution requires three basic elements: Time, Place and Constructive Response.
Timing is everything. Don’t try to resolve a conflict if you’ve got your flamethrowers locked and loaded for battle. A wise person will walk away and wait for tempers to cool down. Make an appointment to discuss the matter.
Place. Discuss it in private. Turn off the TV, cell phones and Blackberrys. No kids, no restaurants and never in bed. Remain fully clothed and upright.
Constructive Response. Start out with a phrase of appreciation for your partner. You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar as people are more willing to listen to positive statements.
Use non-accusatory “I feel” and “I think” statements rather than “You made me” or “You are always…” pronouncements. Remember, feelings do not need to be justified.
Stick to the one subject of conflict. Don’t bring in past grievances to muddy up the waters.
Let each person finish speaking before responding. Resist the urge to jump in and defend your actions. Take a moment to think about what your partner has said before you answer.
Find a constructive solution. This may not always be your ideal option but successful conflict resolution is not about winning or who is right; it’s about forming a more intimate and stronger relationship as a couple.
Finally, end the discussion with a hug. You may not feel like it and it doesn’t have to be super cuddly, but like first aid ointment on a wound, it begins the healing process.
Most importantly, remember your partner is NOT your enemy. You and your partner are joined together as one unit; to support and help fulfill each other’s potential to be the best you can become. No other person in the world has this unique purpose and goal. You are each other’s best friend, counselor and cheerleader.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. I Corinthians 13:4-8