Struggling with conflict in a relationship? Here’s what to do about it.
If you’re in a romantic relationship with someone, and you’re past the blissful honeymoon phase, then I’ll bet you’ve had your share of arguments. And if you’re like me and my husband, you’ve had more than your share!
We’ve all heard that a certain amount of conflict in relationships is healthy. It’s natural for two people to disagree with each other sometimes.
But if your disagreements turn into arguments that are negatively impacting you and your relationship, that means it might be time for you to do some work on yourself.
That’s right – I said “yourself”.
This isn’t to say that the conflict in your relationship is your fault, or that you’re wrong.
The most important thing to remember is that no one causes you to feel a certain emotion. You create your emotions with your thoughts. And unfortunately we’re not mind readers, so when we get into a conflict with our partners, we tend to make up a story about why they are saying or doing whatever it is we’re arguing about.
The key to handling conflict in your relationship is to keep a disagreement from ever reaching the point of conflict in the first place. And to do that, you need to look at the story you’re telling yourself. Here’s exactly how to do that.
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How to Handle Conflict With Your Significant Other
Let’s say you spent $500 in one month with Amazon Prime (pretty easy to do, if you ask me!). Your husband is upset with you because as a couple you have a goal in mind for your joint savings, and you had agreed to cut back on spending that isn’t essential.
He approaches you about this while he’s upset which catches you off guard. You immediately begin to point out things he’s recently spent money on which causes him to call you defensive.
In turn, you become more upset and say something hurtful to him. The argument escalates to a full-blown conflict, and you each storm off into separate rooms, slamming the doors behind you.
Ok, you’re pissed, right? I mean, how dare he raise his voice at you and tell you how to spend your money! Especially when he’s spent money on non-essential things, too!
After some time alone, you begin to calm down. And this is where the work begins! Fun, right? 😉
1. Think about the facts and write them down.
Time for some journaling, my friend. Write down the facts without judgment or emotion. This isn’t what you think about the situation. It’s just the boring old facts.
In the case of the Amazon spending spree, you’d simply write down “I spent $500 on Amazon Shopping. I didn’t tell my husband.”
That’s it. Plain and simple facts that are neutral – neither good nor bad.
2. What thoughts did you have while the argument was happening?
Next, you’ll want to identify your thoughts. Everything begins with your thoughts so this is crucial!
Your thoughts cause your feelings, your feelings cause your actions, and your actions cause your results.
Back to the Amazon spending, you’d write down what thoughts were going through your mind when your husband approached you about the spending.
You might write “He’s overreacting. He’s being hypocritical. He’s setting a double standard. He doesn’t respect me. He’s trying to control me.”
3. ask yourself if you’re creating a story with your thoughts, or if your thoughts are feeding into a larger story you’re telling yourself about your relationship?
As you can see, you’re creating a story in your mind about the situation and why your husband is behaving a certain way. It’s pretty likely that he’s doing the same with you!
The interesting and sometimes frustrating thing with our brain is that it’s constantly looking for evidence to back up our thoughts and beliefs.
If we believe our relationship is rocky or that our significant other doesn’t truly love us, we are going to zero in on every action and word our partner says that provides more support for that belief.
So dig deep and really think about the full story you’re creating and why.
4. ask yourself what you feel when you think these thoughts, and when you tell yourself this story?
When you think these thoughts, what do you feel?
Name your emotions and be specific. Don’t just write that you feel angry.
Sure, right about now you probably do feel angry with your husband. But what’s at the root of that anger? It’s probably that you feel disrespected, and misunderstood.
Figuring out your emotions and naming them is a simple idea, but it gives you so much power over them.
5. recognize if your thoughts are coming from scarcity vs. abundance.
Scarcity vs. abundance is basically fear vs. love.
You can usually tell if your thinking is stemming from a good place or a bad place when you realize the story that you’re creating or trying to find evidence for.
In the case of the Amazon spending, your thoughts would be coming from scarcity. You’re afraid that your husband’s reaction isn’t well-intentioned. But you’ll want to dig deeper than that.
What is it that you’re truly afraid of? Maybe you’re afraid that he doesn’t love you, or you have a fear of being abandoned.
If you have beliefs like these, you’re more likely to have negative thoughts about and perspectives of your interactions with your partner.
6. Ask yourself what you would think if you were coming from a place of abundance and love.
Now imagine that the opposite of any negative beliefs was true. For instance, you know your partner loves you unconditionally and you are secure in the belief that he will never leave you.
How would you have reacted to your partner when he came to you upset about the money you spent?
You would probably have approached him with more curiosity and understanding. Maybe you would have wondered why he is so upset, or you would have been more willing to see the situation from his perspective.
You might recognize that he feels disappointed or frustrated because you spent a significant amount of money without discussing it with him, especially since it has impacted the goal you both agreed to work toward.
7. Ask yourself what you want from your partner.
What is it that you want from your partner? Do you want him to do a certain something more, like chip in around the house? Do you want him to avoid ever raising his voice at you?
Is your partner aware of what you want? Have you made it clear?
Back to the Amazon story, maybe it’s that you want to be able to spend money on things you want while still being able to pay down your debt.
Tell your partner what it is you want or need, and the two of you can come up with a compromise so that both of your needs are being met.
Trust me, I totally know that this is easier said done. Just keep trying and it will become easier with time.
8. Talk to your partner.
Once you’ve written down the answers to the steps above, you should be feeling a lot better and have a clear mind. Sit down with your partner and talk about what happened. Let him or her know why you acted the way you did.
Let yourself be vulnerable and explain to him the story you’re telling yourself – that you’re afraid of not being loved, being abandoned, or being controlled. Have an open and honest conversation. You will probably be surprised at how good this makes you feel and how much closer it brings you and your significant other.
Final Thoughts About conflicts in relationships
Remember that you always have a choice. If you go through this exercise and you realize that this relationship is not serving you or that you no longer want to be with this person, it’s ok to decide to end the relationship.
Just be sure you’re making this decision when you’re no longer feeling intense emotions, like insecurity or jealousy. If you’re calm and coming from a place of abundance, and you know that it’s time to move on from the relationship, then that’s the perfect indicator of your next move.
On the flip side, if you decide you do want to be with this person, sometimes all it takes to “fix” the relationship is some mindset work and letting your partner know what you want and need from him/her. You can’t force someone to change, but so often they will if you ask them to and it’s coming from a place of love.
This exercise is worth the work, and you can use it with any relationship that is difficult for you. It doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships.
Here’s to healthier, happier connections!