Okay, so it’s normal for couples to have disagreements and rows from time to time but when you’re in constant conflict with one another, it’s time to rethink.
People often learn poor conflict resolution skills when they’re growing up, either from their parents or extended family. If you come from a family that typically sulks and holds grudges, you don’t always learn that it doesn’t have to come to that. If you grow up with people who respect each other, engage in healthy discussions and don’t avoid talking about important issues, you learn that things can be resolved before they become too serious.
People in successful relationships often have the ability to solve problems and then let it go. Rather than attacking the other person with words or withholding affection, they let some of the smaller stuff go and stop dwelling on it. This isn’t easy to do, as I know from a personal perspective!
I’ve found that the key is to accept the other person/people as they are rather than trying to change them. ‘Forgive and forget’ is a key element here. Laughter and humour help too – if you can see the absurdity in some situations, it helps a lot.
In my last blog, I wrote about how financial conflicts affect couples but other common clashes are around sex and children. I saw a lot of these issues played out in the counselling room when I worked as a private therapist as I encouraged couples to use their sessions with me to look at these issues from the other person’s point of view. There had to be give and take on both sides and this involved couples doing homework outside of the sessions.
If you feel that you can’t afford counselling or manage to get to sessions, think about the following:
- Value each other’s perspective even if you don’t agree with them. It’s worth really considering what your partner’s saying and working on how you can find a compromise.
- Let the little things go – ask yourself how much it really matters and try to let go, breathe and move onto more important things.
- Keep it fair – don’t insult, curse or name-call. Also, don’t bring up everything they’ve ever done wrong in the past as your partner will just end up feeling attacked and as if they can never do anything right.
- Be clear about what you want (which is different from what you need!). Ask for what you want and be clear – rather than saying “I wish you weren’t always late”, try “next time we’re going out for a meal and you think you might not be able to make it on time, I’d like it if you could call or text me to let me know at least a quarter of an hour beforehand”.
- Tell each other what you do like about the other one rather than always complaining about what you don’t like.
- Deal with any conflict as quickly as you can – if things are just left, they often grow bigger. Better that they’re repaired as soon as possible rather than fester until they get out of proportion.
Good luck with the above – none of these are easy, but they might make all the difference to your relationship.