Being in a committed relationship can be one of the most rewarding things we
can experience; it can also be one of the most painful. I'm sure I'm not alone when I
say fighting and arguing with our significant other can leave us feeling frustrated, hurt, and angry. How can we deal with situations like this without ruining our relationships?
Relationships with our partners can be one of the most rewarding aspects of our lives. We hold a special place for that someone with whom we’ve shared countless moments of joy. Personality differences are inevitable, and what makes us unique as individuals can result in disagreements and conflicts during our relationship.
We tend to be attracted to people that can fulfill a need for us. There is an inner need for each person to become more complete in him or herself. This eventually shows up in some dissatisfaction with the relationship, and the very thing that attracted you to that person is now the thing that may drive you crazy.
Couples may seek counseling at this stage, often with the hope that their partners will change, and that the therapist will help "change or fix" their partners. However, this dissatisfaction with one's partner is as much or even more about changes that are needed in oneself.
We tend to be attracted to partners who evoke a necessary development in ourselves. Sometimes that development is a part of a natural unfolding of our personality, and the relationship seems to grow with it. Even in healthy relationships though, we tend to replicate earlier "unhealthy" patterns of relating. This seems to be the psyche's way of giving us opportunities to increase our consciousness, which is the psyche's goal. Learning to recognize our own patterns and reactions will help our relationships grow stronger.
Arguments are bound to happen, and there are ways to express ourselves effectively when this happens, but it's important to understand that what usually triggers us isn't usually the thing that we are actually upset about. It's usually bringing up something from our past that we are still dealing with.
Just take a minute to stop and ask yourself if this feeling is familiar. Maybe you’re feeling unimportant, unloved, or even abandoned. This may be a feeling you have felt many times, in many different situations. Once you realize this, it’s easier to see that it’s not your partner’s action that is making you feel this way, it’s your beliefs surrounding it.
We often fall into the victim mindset and start looking for evidence that will support that story. We might actually look for this in an unconscious way, because it's familiar, and allows us to confirm our fears that life is full of painful relationships and no one truly understands us.
We may spend our disagreements trying to prove that we are right and the other person is wrong. Sometimes this becomes the main goal, and sometimes being right at the expense of someone else being wrong ends not feeling that great anyway.
It's inevitable that partners are going to disagree, and everyone has days where they might be a little moody. The conflict is not the problem, it's how we handle it that can be an issue. Learning how to resolve conflict with accountability, compassion, honesty, and awareness is key.
1. Accountability - Instead of using blame, talk about how you feel. The truth might hurt, but if spoken from your own point of view, and not in an accusatory way, it will be better received. Take responsibility for your words and speak in a respectful and caring way.
Don't let pride get in the way - say "I'm sorry" and show that you mean it by explaining what you are sorry for. For example, "I'm sorry I didn't call and let you know I was running late. I can see that it left you feeling unimportant, anxious, and worried. The next time I'm going to be late, I'll let you know."
2. Compassion - Listen. Most of the time, just feeling heard is all we need. This goes both ways, so give your partner a chance to express themselves and really listen while they do so.
When communicating your point of view, speak in terms of how you feel. For example, "When you didn't call to tell me you were going to be late, I felt unimportant. I also felt anxious and worried.
When we focus on how we feel instead of what they did wrong, it reduces their instinctive need to feel defensive. It's the best way for both of you to communicate. When one person states how they feel, it's helpful for the other person to mirror it back to them. This helps each person feel heard, and also clarifies that you really understand what each other are trying to say. For example, "I'm hearing you say that you felt unimportant, anxious, and worried, when I didn't call. Is that right?"
3. Honesty - Expressing yourself with honesty and sincerity will not only release your mental load, but help deepen mutual understanding. If you both know that each of you has only the best intentions for each other, it's easier to see that a disagreement does not mean the relationship is doomed.
We all have certain triggers based on our past experiences, and we often project our feelings onto the people we care about most. Recognizing this about ourselves and each other can give us more patience and understanding.
As women, we tend to assume that our partner is a mind-reader and should know exactly what we are thinking and feeling without us needing to tell them. We throw hints that we are upset, like sulking, or pouting. This video is a hilarious example of this.
4. Awareness - Become the observer of your thoughts and feelings. It's important to recognize that no one is responsible for these but ourselves, and stepping back and becoming the observer will help you remain calm and clear.
Ask yourself if being right will bring happiness and fulfillment. Will it really matter in 40 years if I win this argument? Will it even matter tomorrow? It's easy to blame others when we are feeling uncomfortable or unhappy.
The only thing we can really control is ourselves - how we respond to situations. Look at the way you react and try shifting your perception so that you focus more on what your partner does well. If we spend too much time focusing on what we think they are doing wrong, we will continue to feel bad, and there's usually way too much to be grateful for - focus on that instead.
Most of the insecurities that rise out of relationships are the result of insecurities we have with ourselves. Our ego doubts our worth, believes we have to prove ourselves, and secretly wonders if we're actually lovable. Beneath our doubts, insecurities and fears, our voice of truth is there, just waiting to shine through. All we have to do is find it. Connect to the love within you, and it will appear in front of you.
"When it comes to love, you need not fall but rather surrender, surrender to the idea that you must love yourself before you can love another. You must absolutely trust yourself before you can absolutely trust another and most importantly you must accept your flaws before you can accept the flaws of another." - Philosophy: Falling In Love
I write about human behavior, meditation, body awareness, and a variety of other things that pique my interest.