Using harmony in resolving couple conflicts

As children, we are taught that making errors, occasionally behaving unkindly, feeling competitive and sometimes even being physically aggressive toward siblings or other children may be a product of natural emotions that must not be expressed. Youngsters are often guided to use inoffensive avenues to deal with their negative emotions about each other, from curbing their impulse to act on their negative feelings by involving parents or other adults as mediators or by having the youngsters take a “time out” for themselves to reconsider their reactions. Children are also instructed to apologize to the offended party and make an internal decision to abstain from instinctual physical reaction, and resort to logical processes of soliciting an apology from their offender. Why do many people cease to employ these methods during adulthood?

There are three common reactions adults may use in managing disagreements: Withdrawing from engaging in verbal confrontation including shaming or name calling, suggesting a respectful dialogue to reach a compromise or resorting to avoiding each other until their unhappiness quells. In marriage, occasional or frequent diversity of preferences, ideas, choices or wishes is highly likely to occur on a regular basis since many attractions are based on uniqueness of the spouse, not his/her “mirror image” of oneself.

I would like to suggest that a difference in opinions, attitudes, preferences or choices should propel one to become “curious” rather than “furious” with his/her mate. Soliciting more information with an untainted tone helps mates learn more about each other’s ways of thinking and preferences, as well as deepening their respect and love for each other. Some of one’s perplexing choices, feelings or needs may be associated with childhood or early adulthood experiences that have left deep emotional scars in one’s psyche, leading to a decision to avoid future pain by withholding one’s true emotions in future relationships. This method of avoiding conflict is common and unhealthy.

In “5 Steps of moving from Conflict to Harmony in Relationships” Researcher Laura Chang outlines the process of discussing issues that may lead to potential conflicts between mates, by “accepting that conflict in relationships is inevitable, is not “bad” or “wrong” but an avenue to bringing two people together with their lifetime of personal experiences, expectations, hopes, and beliefs” in the process of blending their path of mutual understanding and compromise and creating their own unique cognitive and emotional solutions toward their joint resolution. The author lists the 5 stages from disagreement to negotiated resolution, ”1. Decide on the topic and timing to communicate. 2. Stay on topic. 3. Practice “active listening”, which involves validating what one hears. 4. Offer possible compromise. 5. Be loving in tone and voice, while expressing your opinion.”

While this method is wise and effective, most individuals may find that mastering their kindest attitude when they feel “misunderstood, rejected, not listened to, criticized or combatted”, is an unrealistic demand. Another approach would be to take “a time out” from discussing their differences in the heat of emotions, allowing both parties to quell their individual righteous perspective until they can access their love and compassion for one another and use logic and a respectful attitude through which to jointly seek an acceptable compromise.

Another way to view the delay in making a mutual decision during acrimonious exchanges, is by allowing each partner to consider the other’s needs, wishes, concerns and fears to fully comprehend the mate’s intellectual and emotional reactions. This compassionate view is likely to redirect their intensity about “demanding their way” to feeling their love and caring for their mate and reawakening their compassion and kindness to revisit the issue at a later time.

Allow your love, kindness and respect for your mate to overshadow your needs and jointly seek a compromise that suits both of you.

Related Articles

About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

(0) Readers Comments

Leave a Reply