It is fascinating how many similarities we all share when it comes to conflicts and problems in relationships. Couples fall into the same types of habits over time. Of course, all couples are unique in some respects due to the various situations and events they have encountered throughout their time together. But our natural “humanity” seems to group these patterns of conflict together.
Rather than show the common mistakes couples make, let’s take a look at the positive side; the patterns or themes couples demonstrate when they maintain close, connected relationships with one another.
Couples in stable, happy relationships:
Are not “ok with fighting”
They realize there is a difference between fights and conflict. Fighting means they have high escalation and negativity toward each other and feel like enemies, not friends and lovers. They hurt each other every time they fight. Conflict, on the other hand, is seen as a normal thing everyone will have in their relationship. They realize underneath every problem, issue, or complaint there is a deeper longing, need, or desire. So they work toward caring for their partner first, expressing generosity for each other and finding compromise and solutions.
James 4:1 asks the question: “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” The answer: “Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?”
Conflict always comes from a deeper need, but we have a choice to “fight” about it,
or work together to meet needs for our partner.
Don’t fall into the “communication traps”
There are four wastes of time in communicating that are typical for many couples. They tend to talk about the wrong things, like:
1) Who’s right and who’s wrong? It’s a fact that a small percentage of things couples have conflict about are moral issues. They are not about right or wrong, they are about differences, perspectives, opinions, wants, and needs. Strong relationships learn to honor differences!
2) Who’s at fault or to blame? This is not the focus necessary for working through issues together or caring for your partner. Blame is the discharge of pain and discomfort. The problem is it also means defensive walls go up. Blame has an inverse relationship with responsibility.
3) What really happened? Let’s face it. Most of us will hear the exact same words, see the same faces and behavior, but have a completely different meaning of what happened. So when you talk about who did what or said what, you will continue to just go round-and-round.
4) What’s the solution? Trying to find a solution is not the right focus. At least NOT until both feel they are loved and cared for. After we feel our partner really wants to work together and cares for our feelings and opinions, then we are open to finding solutions to problems.
Have “safe” relationships
What do we mean by safety? It can mean physical safety, but it is more often about feeling emotionally or relationally safe. Safety sounds like:
- -I know my partner cares about me
- -My feelings, ideas, and concerns matter
- -We honor one another
- -Our differences are allowed and valued
- -We each do our part to build trust in our relationship
- -I can have space if I need it
- -I feel effective
- -Anger is not out of control
- -I don’t feel judgment, but understanding and compassion
- -We really feel like partners, not enemies
- -I can be open and vulnerable with my spouse
Talk and try to understand at a “deeper level”
It is necessary to convey to our partners that they have been heard and understood. “Understood” means you’ve let your feelings be influenced, not just that you’ve thought about what they said. For couples who don’t want to be enemies, this means waiting to discuss a compromise until each person can state their partner’s position to their other partner’s satisfaction. In other words, they hear the position, feelings, and needs of their partner. They talk about their feelings (not ‘what happened’) and what is important to them. And they state their position in terms of a positive need.
“Repair” miscommunications or arguments
They come back and deal with the hard things that got them crossways. Just moving on when difficult events take place means that things get buried. But they will resurface again and again. Connected couples use a structure to help them talk about underlying feelings and subjective realities, as well as help them take responsibility for their part. They identify their feelings, state their view of the events, they validate some part of their partner’s view of the events, they take individual responsibility for their part in the fight or miscommunication, and they both identify what they could do differently next time.
Check out more themes couples have in common next week:
Are intentional with their “time together”
Are careful “how they respond” to one another
Have more “heart talk” than “work talk”
“Get help” before it’s too late
Have the right “attitude” in the relationship