Text: Alejandra Misiolek
Conflicts in relationships are inevitable and sometimes necessary. However, when we do not resolve the conflicts we have with our partner, these will accumulate and create unhealthy layers. A conflict that is resolved can bring us closer and even strengthen the bond and improve the relationship.
In this post I will give you some useful tips on how to resolve conflicts with your partner.
- Stop, rewind and explore. This is a mentalization technique that is very frequently used in couples counselling but can also be used by the couple as soon as they become aware that they are having a conflict. How does it work? Take a pause and think because when we fight, our emotions tend to escalate and we lose our capacity to mentalize. Once you stop, try to get back to the moment just when the conflict started, as if you were to rewind. And when you get to this point, that’s time to explore what happened. As if you were to zoom out and look at the big picture.
- Slow motion. When there is a conflict, things tend to happen really fast. But to think and process, we need time. Try to do it in slow motion and you will be surprised how many things you can see when you take your time. And how differently you can react when you give yourself time to respond. We tend to become impulsive when we are under strong emotions and we often regret what we did or said. And things cannot be taken back.
- Analyze the intentions. Once we stop and analyze the beginning of the conflict in slow motion, it is a good idea to understand the intentions, both our own and of our partner. What we wanted to say or do is not always interpreted as we intended and not even always expressed as we wanted. So getting back to what we wanted to communicate in the first place is a very useful practice in solving conflicts.
- Talk about the interpretations. Now that we went through the phase of analyzing our intentions, we can continue by analyzing the interpretations. We filter the information that we get through our own baggage of experiences so it is always biased. So the way you understood what your partner said is not necessarily how your partner said it. Moreover, the way you perceived it is also related to what you normally fight about. In other words, it is filtered through the layers that have been formed in the relationship. When you realized that the partner meant one thing, expressed another and the other partner heard something completely different, you will realize that many conflicts escalate without the partners even remembering what they are quarreling about. Simply because they seem to be speaking in different languages.
- Don´t question the feelings. The last but not least tip is that you shouldn´t question each other´s feelings. If you partner tells you that they felt hurt by what you did or said, don´t say that they shouldn´t because you didn´t intend to or that they exaggerate. Being in a relationship is also about respecting each other and what we feel is not questionable. We can see that the feelings are the consequences of our interpretations or convictions, and we can question them, but not the feelings. Otherwise, you will end up hurting each other and nothing constructive will come out of it.
Following these tips is not as simple as it seems. But it is a good start. If you feel like you want to practice more, at the ART Proyect we organize workshops on communication that you can sign up for.
Bateman, A. W., Ryle, A., Fonagy, P., & Kerr, I. B. (2007). Psychotherapy for borderline personality disorder: Mentalization based therapy and cognitive analytic therapy compared. International Review of Psychiatry, 19(1), 51-62.