Conflict: The Weapon that Saves or Kills a Relationship
Here’s how the story goes: Two people meet and magic happens. They discover that they both share the exact same values, the same type of friends, the same likes and dislikes, same dreams.... The excitement is breath-taking and for a time, everything moves along smoothly on well-oiled wheels. But gradually, before they know it, the daily schedule begins to feel less and less like a comfort zone and more and more like being stuck in a rut. And that’s when the relationship begins to turn sour and life starts going pear-shaped. Does this story sound familiar to you? If so, you’re not the only one. This scenario depicts an all too common pattern of experience amongst couples. And equally common are the things that couples usually fight over. Issues habitually revolve around sex, money, kids, quality time, household chores, decision-making, in-laws, jealousy, pet peeves...... There’s the husband who emits an audible groan at the thought of having to go to Sunday lunch with the in-laws “What? Again?!” And how often have we heard wives complaining about having to do all the housework? “He wouldn’t even know how to hang out his socks!” The catalogue of scenarios is eerily familiar and it goes on and on ad nauseam. Conflict is Actually Healthy How did such a cosy, fuzzy-feeling morph into a full blown blood-curdling warzone? It may come as a surprise to hear that fighting is an unavoidable part of relationships. In fact, conflict is actually healthy! And it is inevitable that, as our relationship progresses, our opinions, feelings, needs and wants will clash. Differences of opinion, or ‘spats’ as they are commonly referred to, can be a healthy way of marking out personal boundaries – letting our needs be known. If we ignore or suppress these differences, we may be heading for a painful explosion of built up anger – or, worse still, a whole series of explosions. Weapons that kill a Relationship Fighting can turn nasty when it breaks the rules of engagement and becomes a ‘deal-breaker’, with ‘weapons’ turned on each other instead of on the issue at hand. Weapons typically involve pride, selfishness, assumptions, fear, suspicion, confusion and lack of clarity. More often than not, they are founded on matters left unresolved from our past. Your learned modes of fighting may have stagnated into a toxic cocktail of avoidance, sarcasm, criticism, manipulation, exaggeration, hysterical statements, muck-raking, and put-downs, to name but a few.
- Are you the victim and/or perpetrator of ‘the silent treatment’?
- Do you or your partner save up a stockpile of emotional grievances, to strike with while the iron is hot?
- Are you attacking each other, rather than the problem?
- Criticising without offering solutions?
- Are you second-guessing each other’s thoughts and telling each other what they should or shouldn’t feel or think?
Tips on How to Achieve Harmony in your Relationship Get in touch with your needs Re-examine what you are missing and what you need most in your relationship. Communicate this to your partner and help him or her understand what will make you happy. Meet the needs of your partner Understand what your partner needs from you. Is it more attention? More sexual intimacy? Better companionship? Or more financial support? Unmet needs in a relationship can bring a lot of frustration resulting in more conflict. Take the time to understand what your partner needs and work towards meeting that need. Work on personal issues Work on personal issues that are keeping you from moving on with your relationship. Your past life experiences may be a primary contributing factor to your present unhappiness. If you resolve your past hurts these may no longer resurface and damage your present life with your partner. Know when to look for help If you and your partner are both willing to search for the source of your unhappiness and discord, you might opt to go to Couples Therapy together. Alternatively, you may prefer to see a therapist on your own. Whichever choice you make, your therapeutic self-exploration, self-development and growth will have a fundamental knock-on effect on your environment. As part of your therapy, you may be invited to experiment with fresh ways of relating, with a view to broadening your options for coping with confrontation in a more constructive and self-fulfilling way.