How Do I Deal with Relationship Conflict?
By: David Lechnyr, LCSW
Healthy families, and couples, know that everyone, and every family, has problems. We want to live in a society that tries to force us to believe that only bad people have problems. The reality is that we all have issues that we have to deal with and solve if we are to be functional and healthy.
When one member of the family has a problem, it is critical to know that it is something that affects the entire family. We end up getting defensive, avoid dealing with conflict or possibly create more problems by trying to fix it. This happens more frequently when one person suffers from issues of depression, anxiety or perhaps even a chronic illness. In the end, all we end up doing is arguing and avoiding the real issues.
Related to this, withdrawal is the first sign that the couple is heading for a divorce, separation, or more problems. In our efforts to deal with conflict, we end up contributing to our own situation backfiring on us.
Ask yourself how many of these items you and your significant other tend to have in common:
- Approach towards handling finances
- Communication and listening skills
- Sex and intimacy
- Recreation and fun times
- Philosophy of life
- Way of dealing with each other’s parents and family
- How you both handle stress
- Approaches towards child raising
The more you have in common, the better. In fact, the last two items are significantly more important when compared to the other items listed above. You also should consider whether or not you confide in each other, how you handle disagreements and whether or not you would still choose each other if you each had your life to live over again. Finally, remember that with any relationship, you owe it to yourself to find out what can be done to save it given the time you’ve devoted out of your life to it.
Many times we think of our significant other as being a steady constant in our lives. However, relationships are more complicated and almost have a life of their own. Just as children learn things as they grow up, relationship and marital issues also experience their own stages of growth and challenge.
However, crisis and traumatic situations present their own unique challenges to the stability of any relationship. We spend a lot of time trying to keep things familiar, comfortable, and predictable. We work hard to grow to the point where we feel that we can have control over our lives and the events in our lives. We also think that things should just happen with little effort on our part.
Where this falls apart is when these fantasies are challenged by things that happen to us in real life.
Avoiding Conflict is Unrealistic
At some point, conflict in a relationship or marriage is inevitable. The important question to ask is whether or not this is turning things towards a crisis. Waiting too long until things are damaged beyond repair is not the most helpful approach. If the two of you are really in trouble, make a commitment to work on things together regardless of what is needed. Relationships and marriages are a joint business venture that both of you are in together.
If things are not getting better despite your best efforts, it’s time to seek out professional therapy and counseling. Do this no matter what happens and don’t expect a magical solution out of the box. You might even need to let go of your pride if you find that counseling is not easy and at times you don’t feel like you want to return. No matter what, keep going to your appointments and don’t give up on the process if you really want to make your relationship work.
Make the decision that the two of you are going to work on this together. Realize that other tasks, duties, and desires may have to be set aside for a while in order to focus on making things work.