How is it that just when you feel everything is going great in relationship, conflict rises up and there you are – stuck! When you’re close to someone, getting along can feel so great- with so much sharing and compatibility. Yet inevitably as there are 2 different people involved – the differences become more apparent and before you know it your beloved partner can start appearing as the enemy. Compromising or finding a peaceful solution to the conflict can feel like the ultimate challenge.
As a couples counselor, I see this especially in relationships where there isn’t a set pattern of dealing with issues. If there is always one person in relationship who avoids conflict and is the accommodator, then conflict is easily resolved as one person usually gives in and goes along with the other. But if you have two very independent, strong willed people – power struggles and the need for negotiation will be much more frequent.
So what works? How does a couple navigate the treacherous path of conflict??
There are ways an individual can create more of an atmosphere that feeds peace instead of strife. Here are a list of skills that aid in conflict resolution.
1. LISTEN. Put away your side of the argument and just listen for awhile. Let the person know they are being heard. Sometimes just a little acknowledgement of the other side can go along way to stop the impasse.
2. STAY HEART-CENTERED. This can be challenging but it really works in promoting more harmony. In the midst of conflict, it is easy to lose track of your heart and go into your head- rationalizing and explaining your part. But that doesn’t promote heart-to-heart cooperation.
3. BE OPEN. Frustration leads to being closed and fixated on being right. With an attitude of open-ness or even I-don’t-knowness, we are open to solutions that may not be immediately apparent.
4. LIGHTEN UP. Lightness can take away from the serious positioning that is so deadly to loving compromise. It’s like being in a dark stuffy room and someone opens up a window to let in fresh air and light.
5. TAKE A BREAK. It is possible to work an argument to death. When you see conflict isn’t going anywhere, sometimes it helps to stop the direction, take a break and make a plan to come back at a later time. It helps to be concrete here and come to an agreement as to exactly when it would work to revisit the issue.
These are all just suggestions that may or may not fit your situation. It is important to note that healing conflict is POSSIBLE. Compromise and learning to co-operate is a skill that can be developed over time . When it happens after feeling stuck, it indeed can feel like a miracle. It reinforces the power of love to persevere in the face of difficulties and makes relationships stronger and more resilient.