How do you and your partner handle conflict?
Most often when we have relationship conflict we can’t manage, we put it right in between ourselves and our lover.
Then we are on opposite sides of an issue and that is when we start to ‘dig in and fight for our territory.’
All the early age strategies we developed to keep ourselves ‘safe and sound’ rise to the surface and we use them inappropriately in our grown-up relationships when we want to emotionally protect ourselves.
Creating a strong couple bond enables us to create the unshakable safety and security to have a strong relationship.
This bond is also important in poly relationships and forms primary relationships in myriad configurations.
Any of the top five things couples argue about threaten the security of our bond – even things that we choose and enjoy are a threat to the relationship and must be managed in a healthy and more creative way.
Navigating conflict in a healthy way
When you want to get to the root of a relational conflict, use the following process to help you and your partner take a deeper dive in conflict resolution, develop intimacy, and understand the depth of the pain.
For the person who is ‘triggered.’ who has the issue that is needing to be heard, start with the stem sentence below.
(When we are deeply distressed by something that is said or done by our partner, we are triggered. Being triggered causes overwhelm and the response is frequently disproportionate to the issue.)
For the listener, you will be the witness to your lover’s deep wound for which you will now be the keeper of this important treasure.
It is critical to never use this precious intimacy in any way other than supportive and healing.
The Conflict Resolution Process
When you are triggered, name the behavior and the emotion
“When you (name the behavior that triggered you), I feel (name the emotion sad, mad, hurt, shame, scared, jealous, lonely).
“When you walked away from me when I was telling you about my conversation with my boss, I felt sad and lonely.”
Name your assumption
“It was so obvious to me that you were annoyed by me. Okay, I assumed you were annoyed by me and couldn’t be bothered by me.”
Notice where you are feeling the emotions in your body.
We usually have tightness or tension when we have emotional disturbance.
Remember that anger is a cover emotion.
When you recognize anger as the dominant emotion you are feeling, let yourself get underneath the feeling. It is usually sadness, fear, hurt, loneliness, or jealousy.
“I notice the sadness in my chest and the loneliness in my throat.”
Name what it brings up for you
This is a really important step and takes some courage and depth of understanding.
Using the emotion, let yourself go back through all the times in your life you have felt the emotion in the same way.
This does not mean that the circumstances will be the same. Focus instead on the feeling AND your response to the feeling.
Let yourself go to the childhood origin of the issue.
“What this brings up for me is when I was 5 years old and I came home from Kindergarten and found my father drunk on the couch. I wanted to tell him about my day, but he wasn’t there. I mean he was there, but he wasn’t there.”
Name the old conclusion you drew about yourself at that time
“A conclusion I drew about myself at that time was that I am unimportant and unworthy of attention.”
Name the old decision you drew about yourself at that time
The decision is the coping mechanism you learned to use as a reaction to the conclusion. It is the strategy you used to manage the thing that you wanted at that time and didn’t get.
“The decision I made based on that conclusion is that I can’t share my feelings. I need to take care of other people’s feelings to try to get love and attention. I turn away from my own feelings.”
Name what you need for yourself
This is the longing that you had as a child but met in a healthy way, not the old unhealthy coping mechanism or old decision.
When you let yourself get in touch with your higher self, it will give you good advice about what a healthy way to get the need met.
A ‘need’ is something we are responsible for to meet on our own.
That doesn’t mean we need to meet all of our own needs because of course, that is the pleasure of having a relationship: we get help in life.
But ultimately, we are responsible for getting our needs met.
“What I need for myself is to remind myself that I am responsible only for myself. I don’t control anyone else and I am unable to change anyone else’s emotions. I love myself.”
Name what it is that you want from your partner
You may tell your partner what you want from them with the understanding that you may not get it, but it is still important to ask!
Be sure to be very clear about the experience you are looking for when asking your partner for what you need.
We frequently want our person to stop or start doing something in order for us to feel better. However, it is really important to recognize the experience we will be having if our person did what we wanted them to do.
“What I want from you, knowing that I may not get it, is to listen to me when I come to you about my emotions. I want you to stay present with me even if you want to run away.”
Name your new conclusion and new decision
It is critical to get a ‘redo’ of the old conclusion (belief) and old decision (behavior) and develop new conclusions and new decisions that will meet the longing in a healthy way.
These statements can be used as affirmations. When they are read everyday, you bring the subconscious to the conscious which will propel your healing enormously.
The new conclusion should be a positive new belief ‘I am’ statement.
The new decision should be a positive new behavior to support the longing and the new support to the new conclusion.
“The new conclusion is: I am responsible for my own emotions and expressing them. I am loved.”
“The new decision is: I focus on my own emotions and expressing them in healthy ways. I stay connected to myself when I meditate and when I exercise. I am planning a retreat for myself in which I will get in touch with the range of emotions I have been separating from.”
Would you like a response?
This is when your person gets to paraphrase everything that you said.
Sometimes your person will have a challenge getting all the details and you may need to be patient and gracious with each other to ensure that you have been heard.
It is a beautiful experience to have your words spoken by your love.
There is something really healing about hearing your words exactly spoken by your person.
It feels like, “You GET me!”
“I heard you say that when you saw me turn away from you when you were sharing about the conversation with your boss, you felt sad and lonely, and you assumed I was annoyed by you.
And you felt that sadness in your chest and in your throat… (keep following the process that your person explored until the completion).
It is important to close the session.
How would you like to complete or close?
Would you like a hug?
A nod or smile?
Would you like to take each other’s hands?
Would you like a single word of appreciation?
Are you ready to make this love work?
This LoveWorks is more than therapy – it is a process of relational transformation that takes advantage of the most relevant, accessible, understandable and up-to-date information available.
We want to help you and your partner to develop a deeper connection, recognize and fight dysfunction, and heal your relationship.