Relationship Advice

Conflict (noun): a disagreement or clash between ideas, principles, or people (Encarta Dictionary).

Conflict, particularly in a committed relationship, is inevitable. No matter how much we love each other, no matter how much we (usually) understand each other, we are going to disagree eventually. It can be a minor irritation, a serious concern or a cataclysmic event.

There are some disagreements couples have over and over; perhaps each hoping that one more time will sway the other to their side. Or maybe it just becomes habit. Some couples yell a lot, and some fight their battles in silent glares and accusatory glances. Some couples actually find a way to resolve their conflicts in ways that makes their relationship stronger.

Resilience (noun): the ability to recover quickly from setbacks (Encarta Dictionary).

Bouncing back. It makes sense that the smaller the setback, the easier it is to bounce back. The more caustic a conflict is, the more difficult it will be to heal the emotions and communicate in a way that will create a solution instead of a chasm.

As children, we were often told to “fight nice”. As adults, everything is so much more complicated. Or is it? What would it look like if we tried to “fight nice” in the way children on the playground do? Of course, it goes without saying that physical violence of any kind is absolutely forbidden.

Rule number one: No name calling. It isn’t going to solve anything. Besides, the other guy might be better at it than you, which is an added insult. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words..” can cause hurts that never heal.

Rule number two: Be polite. You want to be heard, so be willing to listen without interrupting. Say please and thank you. At the very least, it might give you one more chance to rethink that insult you were about to throw out.

Rule number three: Keep it to a dull roar. Yelling raises blood pressure, strains vocal cords and scares the cat, but it doesn’t get your point across any more effectively. Usually the opposite.

Rule number four: Take a time out. If emotions are escalating, treat yourself like a tantrum throwing toddler. Find a quiet place where you can be alone and calm down. And, like a child in time out, think about what you said.

Rule number five: Admit it when you’re wrong. Admit it when you’re partly wrong. Admit it when they’re right (or even partly right). Even children know when they’ve misbehaved, so listen to your mom and say you’re sorry.

Feel like you’ve flashed back to fourth grade recess? Great! Now try this: Imagine you and your partner are playing tether-ball. One hits the ball clockwise while the other tries to hit it counterclockwise. The goal is to be the first to wind the ball on the pole. You both have the same goal, but are swinging in different directions. Now imagine you still have the same goal (winding the ball on the pole) but you decide to work together on it. You both hit the ball the same direction and you reach your goal faster and with little or no interference. Now, that’s bouncing back!