How do you and your partner deal with conflict? Often the simple answer is very differently. Many prefer to avoid conflict and believe that a disagreement or argument is always bad in a relationship. Some grew up in households filled with conflict and never saw anything good come from it. Others didn’t see much conflict at all and never learned the necessary skills to resolve it. Perhaps conflict triggered fear which resulted in avoidance or detachment. All relationships have conflict, but how you handle it determines the effect. What prevents you from dealing with conflict directly? Some worry about hurting the other person’s feelings, others fear the response, and some lack the necessary skills to deal with conflict.
Ironically, men are less comfortable with conflict than women. We seek to solve the problem so that we can limit the discussion and fix it quickly. In general, women would prefer to process and discuss the conflict before moving to solve the issue. Of course not all men and women handle conflict according to their stereotypic gender approach. Either way, believe it or not, conflict can actually be a good thing in a relationship and lead to positive change, growth, and a greater level of connectedness. The key is handling it constructively, appropriately, and effectively.
First, identify the conflict in terms that you can agree upon and seek to understand and express your feelings tied to the conflict. Being able to validate, acknowledge, and accept the other person’s feelings related to the conflict can be half the battle. Discuss possible solutions, negotiate options, and possibly compromise as part of the process of dealing with conflict. Lastly, implement a mutually agreed upon solution and let it go. Sometimes agreeing to disagree is the best you can do. While conflict is a part of everyone’s life, keeping it inside will consume thought, energy, and negative emotion. Decide to deal with it rather than hang on to it.