Conflict and tension are things you can’t avoid in any relationship. It might be a moment when he said he would text you at the end of a night out after being with his friends, and he didn’t, or where he relates with a person in a way that makes you feel jealous. Or maybe he was blahs a about something that was really important to you or forgot something, a promise that he made to you.
Tension in these moments is inevitable, but damage to the relationship is not. What you argue about doesn’t matter, but how you argue about it is what matters. Some of us react in a certain way when we’re feeling hurt and scared, which destroys instead of developing the relationship.
Here are a few behaviors that can potentially kill a relationship:
- We go silent: when our significant other does something we don’t like, we withdraw and go into our caves, and we give them the silent treatment.
- We storm off: we make a point of getting out of their vicinity, not giving them a chance to talk to us, but instead just disappearing.
- We label our partner: instead of telling our partner that was a selfish thing you did, we say you’re a selfish person.
- We make the argument black and white: trying so hard to make him believe he’s wrong and you’re right. There is no room for listening to both sides of the argument or explanation.
- Castigating him to your friends: instead of communicating with him, you simply vent to your friends, often vilifying him in their eyes in the process.
- Verbal abuse: you go on the attack with vicious comments that are designed to inflict pain, not solve problems.
What we have to remember about these reactions is that they are reactions to fear. We’re scared that we’re not enough, we won’t be loved, abandoned, or we chose the wrong partner in life. The truth is when we’re afraid, we do crazy things. Why? Because we’re all a little messed up. Yes, we all are.
Although we’re working on that, and we all are, we know that in the meantime, while we’re working through our own issues, we have to have better response systems for dealing with conflict. Even though we might not fully have a grip on every of our emotions in every given moment, what we can control is our reaction to those emotions.
Trained responses to work on
Here are trained responses to help you avoid these behaviors that could damage your relationship:
- Instead of going silent, speak.
- Instead of disappearing, stay, and solve.
- Instead of denigrating your partner’s character and labeling your partner, focus on the behavior you didn’t like.
- Instead of making the argument black and white, allow for nuance or complexity in the argument.
One of my favorite phrases in life is why can’t both be true? Why can’t it be true that he did something selfish, and also that he did not mean to be or that maybe you overreacted at the moment? Why can’t both be true? Instead of going to your friends with a propaganda campaign on how badly he acted, choose one person or two people that are grounded that helps you organize your thoughts, and then go back to him and sort things out. Also, use restraint with the kind of words and phrases and attacks that tomorrow you would wish you could take back.
When we’re feeling vulnerable or afraid, we all have our own special brand of crazy, but when the intoxication of fear wears off, all we would be left with is a reaction we are ashamed of. When I see a person acting in wonderful or weird ways. I don’t see a crazy person. I see someone who’s scared. What we have to be big enough to realize is that relationships are made or broken in the moments of conflict and tension. We have to learn how to navigate those moments because that would be the difference between finding and keeping lost in love or losing it forever.