Do you ever feel like your partner misunderstands you? Do you feel unheard in your relationship?
You might think about how incredible it felt at the beginning of your relationship. Didn’t it start because you and your partner lifted each other up to come closer together?
Then why, when you argue, does it feel like you’re miles apart?
The truth is conflict in our relationships is unavoidable. Even the happiest couples have disagreements. What distinguishes successful relationships from the rest is how partners in the relationship approach disagreements.
Avoid these unhealthy things during a disagreement:
- Contempt. Contempt is dangerous because it shows up as comments that make one partner seem superior to the other.
- Defensiveness. Defensiveness shows up when the defensive partner makes excuses or deflects blame instead of taking responsibility.
- Stonewalling. Stonewalling shows up when a partner completely shuts down and builds a wall instead of confronting the issue.
- Selfishness. Sometimes we get so focused on our own needs that we overlook the importance of acknowledging our partner’s needs and desires.
The way you resolve each disagreement can salvage your relationship.
Here are healthy ways to deal with a disagreement:
1. Listen with empathy. During a disagreement, listen with the goal of understanding your partner’s point of view. Be open as you listen to why your partner feels the way they do.
- Avoid getting defensive.
- Keep the conversation calm and respectful.
- Understand the root of your partner’s point of view.
2. Express appreciation. Disagreements can lead to a tense environment where both you and your partner’s guards are up and alert. After your partner shares his or her experience with you, express appreciation.
- “I appreciate that you shared that with me.”
- “I understand that might have been difficult for you to share. Thank you for trusting me with that.”
3. Be curious. When you approach a disagreement with curiosity, you are opening yourself to learn something new about both you and your partner. Ask questions.
- Be curious about your partner’s perspective and what triggers may have come up leading up to or during the argument.
4. Take a break. When you start to feel overwhelmed, ask for at least 20 minutes so you both can distract yourselves from the conversation and calm down. A study by The Gottman Institute found that couples who took a 30-minute break during an argument returned to the discussion with lower heart rates.
- Read a book or magazine.
- Listen to music.
- Go for a walk or a jog.
- Play with your pet.
- Solve a Sudoku or crossword puzzle.
5. Talk about how you feel and what you need. Our first reaction during an argument might be to tell our partner how they harmed us. It’s more productive to talk about how you feel and what you need.
- Avoid putting blame on the other person.
- Turn towards your partner when they share what they need. How can you fulfill that need?
If you find yourself in a conflict loop, step away from the idea of “winning” the argument. Instead, take the steps above to listen to your partner, be curious, or even take a break.
Before you end the conflict resolution conversation, ask your partner how you can support them. Asking how you can support each other is a great way to revisit your original, loving intentions that you had for each other.
Disagreements are a natural part of every relationship. Learning healthy ways to deal with those disagreements will help you learn more about your partner and build trust in the relationship.
Turn your conflicts into opportunities to strengthen your relationship! You’ll both enjoy the results!