Three Tips For Better Conflict Resolution

 
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Many couples fear that experiencing conflict is a sign that their relationship is in distress. However, this is not necessarily true. Healthy individuals bring their whole self into a relationship; their values, their tastes in music, and even some “annoying habits”.  Sometimes the very things that caused you to fall in love with your partner, can become a source of conflict over time.

It is not the absence of conflict, but how conflict is resolved that indicates the health of a relationship. When couples learn to resolve their conflicts well, it can actually increase feelings of closeness and intimacy between them.

Sometimes it’s helpful to establish a few ground rules before engaging in conflict with your significant other. Below are 3 tips that may help you work through your next disagreement:
 

1. Ask for clarification.

Sometimes the message your partner is sending you is not the same message you are receiving. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and assume the worst of your partner. Many times, we hear what our partner is saying through our own distorted lens and may read a tone or an intention that was not intended by our partner. When we take the time to ask for clarification, it communicates to our partner that we are listening and gives you the opportunity to better understand their intended meaning.
 

2. Don’t interrupt each other

When partners agree to give each other “equal airtime” to express themselves, it fosters mutual respect. When you offer to let your partner voice their position, they will be more likely to listen to your perspective in return. When we speak over our partner, we are sending the message that our opinion is more important than theirs. This tends to “escalate” disagreements and often ends in one of two ways: a shouting match where neither partner feels heard or understood; or one partner will shut down while the other does all the talking. Either way there is no resolution. Giving each other the opportunity to be heard, helps both partners feel valued and strengthens the connection between them.
 

3. Take a “time-out”

When your partner says something that triggers an emotional reaction in you (as only a partner can) take a moment to pause before you respond. If you feel your heart racing and your jaw clenching, it might be wise to let your partner know you need a “time-out” before you can finish the conversation. When we respond in anger, we are more likely to do or say things we will later regret. Anger creates a lot of energy that is better burned off by taking a walk or a trip to the gym. It’s important not to use a time-out as an “escape hatch”; conflicts need to be resolved, but they are more effectively resolved when both partners are in a calmer state of mind.

While disagreements are inevitable, sometimes relationships need the extra support and guidance of a professional counsellor. If you need help reconnecting with your partner, call me for a free phone consultation. I have training in emotionally-focussed couple’s therapy and can support you in regaining or strengthening your connection with each other.

True Story

 
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There is a tendency in human nature to want to hide our brokenness and struggles. We want others to believe the image we present on social media: that our lives are full of fun outings, pumpkin spiced lattes, exotic vacations and happy, smiley family gatherings…

It feels good to be “liked”.

But there are pieces of ourselves that we don’t share as easily. Most of us don’t post about the times we cry ourselves to sleep; the times our anxiety robs us of the ability to leave our homes; the moments we rage at our spouse; the seasons when our grief feels as though it will swallow us alive; the times we give in to our secret addictions, and the times we wonder if we can find the strength to get out of bed to face another pain-filled day…. Social media doesn’t tell even half of our true story.

Shame tells us to hide our stories of brokenness because others won’t understand.

 

“Shame hates it when we reach out and tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it- it can't survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy. When we bury our story, the shame metastasizes.”

-Brene Brown

 

Researchers have discovered what they call the “pratfall effect”. They found that when someone who appears perfect does something clumsy or makes a mistake, we like them more then if they had remained “perfect”. There is something about seeing the humanity of others that causes us to identify with them in a way we otherwise cannot. Something inside of us says, “Yes! I can relate to this person!” We realize we are not alone in our brokenness.

As a counsellor I am inspired by the courage of people who are willing to bravely share their stories with me. As someone who has reached out for counselling myself in the past, I understand first hand the feeling of shame that tries to prevent us from sharing our private pain with someone else..

It takes incredible courage to silence the voice of shame. Yet, when we find the strength to become vulnerable and share our story with someone we trust, shame cannot survive it and healing can begin. It is a freedom we can’t experience any other way. It might be painful and embarrassing, and it may even feel worse at first, but it marks the beginning of a journey toward healing.

If you have a hidden part of yourself that you know needs healing, may I encourage you to push past shame and talk to someone you trust. Find people who you can be vulnerable and open with.

If counselling is your next step, please know that I will  hold your story as a sacred trust. Your confidentiality is extremely important to me, and together we can move toward the healing you deserve.

In the video below, Brene Brown says "the definition of courage is to tell your story with your whole heart." It is well worth the 3 minutes to watch.