Screw Conflict. Give me Resolution
Updated: May 31, 2019
When the inevitable comes don't turn and run. Face what is to come...
Throughout relationships there is inevitably going to be conflict. Sometimes arising from salient values, or lifestyle choices and sometimes from smaller seemingly insignificant things like who’s turn it is to unload the dishwasher or who forgot to make the date night reservation. What’s most important for the health of your relationship is how you approach resolving these conflicts by setting up a system where everyone can voice their concerns and guarantee those concerns will be met with genuine understanding. Compromise it a tool you can use to help alleviate the stress placed on relationships to be perfect. Through the last 5 years what it means to be in a relationship has changed because of the rise of social media and its growing presence in our lives. We are constantly bombarded with messages and images of people portraying their lives and relationships as perfect and the pressure to measure up is never ending. It's easy to look at someone else's portrayal of their own life and think because your relationship isn't perfect like there's is there must be something wrong. That your arguing or unhappy because you’ve found the wrong person and you just need to go find the right person and that will solve all your problems. The hardest part about this is realizing when you’ve put unrealistic expectations on your relationship and having the strength to admit that.
Whether you have unrealistic expectations or aren’t being unrealistic but overlooked, unappreciated or unheard the key to resolving conflict is communication and you always start with honesty. Honesty in a relationship is telling the truth, expressing how you feel, and setting your boundaries and expectations. Telling the truth is simple. Leave nothing out because lying by omission is in direct opposition to honesty and the aim of effective communication. Telling the truth encompasses our next stage in honest which is expressing how you feel. This is always the most difficult and delicate part of honesty. As humans we aren't good at sharing our emotions for fear of how they will be received and simply because it seems it’s not always in our best interest to do so. That makes us vulnerable; vulnerable to personal attack, criticism, and rejection but being in that vulnerable state allows us to feel and see the truth in what someone is saying when it comes to a relationship. The idea is to have all your cards on the table and nothing to hide in the hopes that your partner is willing to do the same for you. If this seems like you’re asking a lot then you need to reevaluate what it means to be in a relationship because this is the bare minimum you need in order to have a successful committed relationship. The final stage of honesty takes honesty a bit further than most would assume it goes. Setting your boundaries and expectations is important because it forces you and your partner to be on the same page. Clearly laying out the boundaries you have surrounding the issue in question is critical for framing the issue. Maybe your partner sees the issue in a different way or even thinks you have an issue with a different part of the underlying problem. Setting your boundaries will help you clearly identify to your partner what you have an issue with and how you’ve come to that conclusion. Then you need to set your expectations and make sure they are heard and understood.
If you want things to change then you need to express, with boundaries, what's wrong and then, with expectations, what you’d like it to be or what you should strive for. Expectations don’t need to be as set in stone as “You will do this at this time in this way”; But can be more of a goal to aim for and not an actual result or means to an end. If you truly feel there are clear expectations that need to be met then it’s your duty to express that and make sure it's understood these aren’t goals but milestones we need to meet for our path to continue in the way that is has been going. When presenting these expectations inevitably you will encounter comments on how those expectations are going to be met accompanied with defensive comments on why they are not already being met because setting these expectations can be felt, on the receiving end, like an attack. Seemingly meant to highlight shortcomings when in actuality you don’t feel there are shortcomings just unfulfilled wants that can be met but haven’t been clearly addressed in the past. When that is the case it’s important to reassure your partner that it’s not their fault and your not blaming them. Your identifying aspects of the relationship you feel should be given more attention and have been overlooked in the past not do to anyone's personal faults but do to the general neglect of that aspect by its unacknowledgement or poor acknowledgement.
At this point in a conversation many people may be emotionally drained and are “tired” or ambivalent to continue the conversation. This is where decompression time and a safe space comes into play. Make it know that at any time throughout this conversation you can hit the pause button and reconvene at a more convenient and less stressful time. Baring in mind that respect needs to be given on both sides for wanting to have the conversation and needing some decompression time. Coming to an agreement on when to reconvene the conversation and following through with that is critical for the success of resolving conflict. With regards to decompression time It’s a show of good faith to follow through with the set time and to not press to have the conversation earlier. It’s important to highlight that decompression time can be used at any point during or after the conversation and for that time to be effective then there needs to be a safe space where that topic won’t be brought up or discussed. A safe space can be a physical space, a mental space or both. A safe space is there to introduce some mindfulness and allow anyone the time to think clearly about a discussion or about other things going on in their life that aren’t related to this discussion. Resolving complicated relationship issues is never an exact science, relationships are ever changing and evolving, but with this framework you can start to adopt a better way of approaching conflict. Being able to adapt this framework to each situation in an effort to make your relationships stronger will help you in the now and in the future. As with all issues regarding love a thorough analysis and an unbiased opinion can help put things into perspective and point you in the right direction.