Conflict is a natural, normal part of any relationship. Yes, even happy, healthy ones.
This is sometimes hard for people to accept. Many of us grow up believing the myth of “happily ever after.” Two people truly in love, who build a relationship with perfect harmony forevermore with little to no effort.
But the reality is that we’re all human. You and your partner are separate people with different goals, feelings, and ideas. And thank goodness for that, because otherwise, things would get boring fast.
Sometimes, those different goals, feelings, and ideas will lead to conflict. That’s just natural.
In fact, if you and your partner aren’t experiencing any conflict, then it is likely one or both of you has “checked out” of the relationship. This phenomenon is called “stonewalling”. Someone is feeling overwhelmed, so instead of dealing with the issue, they shut down and close themselves off. They withdraw into themselves – and away from the other person.
This is a “flight” reaction to conflict, but many of us engage in the opposite: a “fight” reaction. This is when someone lashes out. Engages in insults or name-calling. Points out the other’s person’s worse behavior. Or otherwise seeks to “hurt” the other person emotionally or “win” the argument.
In effect, it’s another way to walk away from the conflict. You are deflecting from the actual issue. You are not actually dealing with it.
Fortunately, there is a healthier, more productive way to react when you feel hurt by your partner’s words or actions.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Don’t keep the feelings in and ignore them. Don’t attempt to hurt your partner’s feelings in return. Instead, own how you are feeling.
Running away or lashing out are easy responses. Acknowledging your feelings takes bravery.
If it helps, think of it as fighting with honor. You won’t respond with a sucker punch of a counterattack. You won’t simply walk away.
I challenge you to give it a try. The next time your partner says or does something hurtful:
- Take a moment to breathe.
- Register how you are feeling.
- Collect your thoughts on what was said or done.
- Share what you are feeling: “That really hurt.”
Then let it be. Be silent. Wait. Let the emotions wash over you.
Or walk away and restart the conversation later when that emotional response has subsided, and you are able to have a meaningful dialogue about what happened.
This will allow you to own how you are feeling. You are not denying it. You are letting the other person know. But you also aren’t letting those negative emotions take over the dialogue either.
In the end, this will allow you and your partner to move forward in a more positive way together. All it takes is a little courage.
Rooting for you!