There’s just no escaping it…
From “You left the cap off the toothpaste” to “Do you still love me?”, every relationship faces disagreements, fears and uncertainties that can lead to conflicts both great and small.
It usually begins with unresolved feelings of hurt or resentment. We “smuggle” these negative feelings, often hiding or denying them for awhile. We start to feel more and more unappreciated, unheard, or disrespected the longer it goes on.
Needless to say, it creates a volatile mix of emotions primed to ignite into open conflict…… more commonly known as your next fight.
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out that these moments represent a fork in the road. They’re an opportunity for things to get better or worse.
To add fuel to the fire, when we do feel a fight coming on, these feelings often cause us to default to old, ingrained behavior patterns of our own.
Help Love Thrive
Maybe we jump directly into “attack mode” when we feel upset, challenged or frustrated. Maybe we put up an impenetrable wall of defense. Or maybe we just pull away, choosing avoidance over heated confrontation.
No matter which path we take, one thing’s for sure: as we feel the battle coming on, most of us stop communicating with our partner in any useful way.
When we see confrontation coming, we tense against it. We want to fight and win. We start treating the other person like an adversary. Naturally, our partner then jumps to counter-attack and defend.
It’s a toxic chain reaction. The longer it goes on, the more heat and distance it creates. It’s also why we’re often doomed to escalate trivial conflict (and its temporary pain) into lasting damage and suffering.
The bad news is, evolutionary psychology tells us that these reactions are basically built into the most primeval, instinctive parts of our psychology – what I like to call our “lizard brain.”
Now, here’s the good news…
The Healthy Way To Confront Conflict
Confronting conflict in a healthy way means consciously overriding that primitive “lizard brain” to choose a different path.
This path allows us to continue to “hear” our partner, clearing the way to understanding, empathy, resolution… and, ultimately, a healthier, more connected, thriving relationship moving forward.
Problem is, getting on this path when it matters most isn’t easy. Even more challenging: the entrance is usually blocked by “emotional gates” that take real strength and determination to break through.
But, with just a little practice, we can find the “magic key” needed to unlock that gate. We can have it handy and ready to use at will.
Getting ahold of that magic key comes down to this:
As a partner in a loving relationship, we need to accept that conflict is inevitable. However, we also need to “get” that it’s our defensiveness and avoidance that causes real, lasting damage.
If we can override that lizard brain and make a conscious choice to recognize and accept confrontation… to prepare for it… to stay present as we experience it… we can unlock this path by dealing with the moment.
Of course, learning to be “mindful” in this way (versus instinctively closing off and attacking) requires the development of certain emotional muscles.
More on how to develop those crucial muscles in a moment…
First, here’s how to use that magic key for turning confrontation and conflict into a better, healthier relationship.
Before You Fight…
Give A “Shout-Out” To The Supremacy Of Your Love
What does that mean exactly?
It means letting your partner know up front that the safety and preciousness of your relationship rules above all else.
As you feel a fight coming on, say something like, “I’m feeling really angry right now. But I want you to know that my love for you is SO much bigger than those feelings.”
Now your partner knows that, no matter what comes next, the safety of the relationship is never in question. It creates a buffered, secure space for expressing yourself. It lessens defensiveness and makes it far less likely that bad feelings will linger to cause real damage.
Best of all, calling out the supremacy of your love provides a greater perspective on the fight itself.
It’s a shift that reminds us why we’re together in a relationship and fighting over the toothpaste in the first place.
Of course, doing this at such a volatile moment can feel pretty unnatural. It can feel halting and awkward.
After all, you’re going totally against the momentum toward conflict. You’re fighting against reaching that satisfying release that comes with really getting into it.
That’s why you need to understand right up front….
Success Takes Focused, Conscious Energy (Practice Makes Perfect)
The key to making it happen is strengthening the emotional muscles that allow you to be present, aware, and in-control in that critical moment. And just like any other training regimen, strengthening those muscles is all about putting in the reps.<
So practice, practice, practice.
Start by paying close attention to how you recognize and handle emotional “triggers” in your regular, day-to-day life.
Whether you’re grumbling in line for your morning latte or dealing with a pain-in-the-butt boss, pay attention to the feelings that precede confrontation. Take a moment. Experience what you’re experiencing.
Then… before going off… tell your barista how much you appreciate how hard he works. Let your boss know that you value her experience (or whatever it is you value – get creative and think of something!)
In A Nutshell:
Become a ninja at recognizing and anticipating conflict before it happens… then use that moment to create a “safe zone” for your feelings to be heard.
There’s no better way to not only survive the rough spots and bumps in a relationship, but to use them to actually help love thrive.
So go ahead, leave the cap off the toothpaste.
If you fight about it, from now on your partner will always know that your love is bigger than the confrontation to come.
Do just that much, and you’ll be astonished how easily you can use your next fight to create an even healthier, more deeply connected relationship… and a priceless new opportunity to help love thrive.
About The Author
David DeAngelo is the creator of over a dozen different programs on dating advice that have helped millions of men around the world create and maintain self-esteem, a positive and engaging love life and success with women and dating. Follow him at Double Your Dating