Love shouldn’t hurt – ever

Conflict Resolution
It is a given in any relationship that there will be conflict. No relationship can be argument-free forever. The most important thing to learn in those moments is how we resolve our conflicts. Everyone is probably familiar with the age-old anecdote, “You have to fight fair.” But what does fighting fair actually look like?

If you did not grow up in a home where there were healthy conflict resolutions modeled, and you did not intentionally seek them out later in life you may have no idea where to begin. Lucky for us we live in an age where information is literally at our finger tips. One Google search, YouTube search, or even TikTok video can provide understanding into this important subject. We just have to be willing to put in the time and energy.

According to Doctors John and Julie Gottman of the Gottman Institute relationship conflict can be as easy as the following three step process: Pause, Rewind, Repair. This process simply states it is okay to say you need a break during conflict, to ask if we can stop and go back before a hurtful thing was said, to ask for forgiveness or to rephrase something, and of course to make a healthy connection after the conflict has reached resolve. This gets easier with time and practice. Pausing during an argument can give both people enough time to cool down and less things will be said out of frustration and anger.

The Gottman Institute has a wealth of information over decades of evidence-based research to help couples successfully navigate their relationships. They have an e-newsletter called the Marriage Minute that is free to subscribe as well as a strong online presence. The Gottmans have published numerous books, host seminars, and have affordable packages available on their website. They have a free app available on iTunes and Google Play called card decks that promote healthy communication and getting to know your partner on a deeper level. When you get to know your partner better communicating gets easier because you learn more about why they feel the way that they feel.

Elizabeth Scott, PhD, wrote an article for verywellmind.com regarding conflict resolution skills and healthy relationships. In this article she gives key components to ensuring that each fight can be resolved if you will follow some easy steps. She states that getting in touch with your own feelings is crucial to resolving any conflict. Knowing how you feel and why you feel that way is not only empowering but helpful so you can communicate more efficiently.

Dr. Scott credits listening skills as another vital part of the de-escalation process. She explains that listening is just as important as expressing yourself. During a conflict it can be hard to stop and just truly listen to our partner, but we have to be able to hear what they are feeling and why to come to a resolution. The next step involves assertive communication. This may sound like the opposite of conflict resolution; however, Dr. Scott reminds us that asserting our feelings is important, but we have to do it in a respectful way. This means being clear but not aggressive.
Dr. Scott recommends that each conflict needs to be seeking a solution. This looks different in each scenario. Sometimes couples can agree to disagree, but most cases need to work to a more favorable outcome such as a compromise. Only your partner can truly help end a conflict if they are willing to work with you and not against you.

The last bit of advice Dr. Scott leaves us with is to know when to let go. Not all relationships will last forever. Some are there simply to teach us or to help us grow. Violence is never the way to resolve a conflict, and if someone is becoming violent during fights it is best to reach out for help immediately before that situation becomes more dangerous.

If you or someone you know is currently or has ever experienced intimate partner violence, Crisis Services of North Alabama can help. Please reach out to our 24/7 HELPline at 256-716-1000, our website at csna.org, or our local office at 256-574-5826. There are trained crisis counselors available to talk. We provide free and confidential support.

-Christina Hays

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