Every conflict in a couple relationship has an opportunity. It’s like a door – it can be opened or left closed. It’s natural to want to just move on but often it is the re-connection with each other that’s left behind. Continuously walking away from each other causes a separation that can be hard to overcome. Opening the door gently to what happened can help you reconnect. Use these 5 steps to move back towards your partner.
Ask for Time to Talk
Partners in a relationship (spouses or significant others) need space and time to calm down after a conflict, trying to re-engage immediately can escalate things. Instead, give some space for cooling-off then ask your partner for some time to talk about what happened. Be gentle. But don’t beat around the bush, let them know it is the conflict you would like to talk about. If your partner is resistant, or maybe you have a history of not handling conflicts well then let them know you would like to hear how they felt, not try and fix what went wrong.
Focus on Feelings
It is normal to feel hurt by the other person but this part of the conversation is about expressing your feelings leading into the conflict and during – not what your partner did to you. Pointing the finger at the other person only causes defensiveness and blame. Generally, after calming down, telling each other how you felt yourself will open doors to understanding each other better.
The bottom line is that you can only take responsibility for your own actions, trying to make the other person take responsibility is exhausting and usually doesn’t work. Focus on how your behavior contributed to the conflict. Acknowledge what you did and ask about the effect. “I raised my voice at you and got mad, how did that make you feel?” Then, keep the door open. Let them express their hurt. Listen and validate.
Were there other things that played into the conflict? Long day at work? Stress with kids? Limited finances? Poor sleep? These affect us in how we relate to each other. Share with your partner what may have influenced you but don’t shirk your responsibility for what you said or did. Also, if certain topics are hard for you to discuss let your partner know but try to keep the door of communication open rather than closing it.
Ask your partner, “Next time, what can I do differently that would help?” This puts the emphasis on receiving feedback. This will also put you in a better position to identify issues that need more discussion. Once you are more receptive to each other you’ll feel more connected and this is the opportunity in the conflict.
Next Steps: What will you do today to move back towards your partner and re-connect over a recent conflict?
© 2014, Dean Wisdom