dr-jane-rosen-grandon-small.jpThe ability to manage conflict is essential in healthy love relationships. While I often encourage couples to “bring their problems to the table” and brainstorm solutions together, I know this requires a fair amount of trust. We have to trust that we won’t be criticized, scolded or rejected. We have to trust that differences of opinion won’t turn into painful fights. Our love relationships are very precious to us. While there’s no escaping conflict, it is possible to use conflicts constructively. Here are a few more thoughts on the matter.

  • Working through conflicts brings us closer together. Initially, all relationships are superficial. Relationships deepen when we achieve new levels of understanding and when we survive difficulties together. Couples who have been together a long time have usually survived a variety of trials and tribulations. When we combine our knowledge and experiences, we can help each other solve problems and we can watch each other’s back!
  • We are always learning about ourselves and each other. Every one of us is like a tree. Each day we sprout a few new leaves, we stretch a little further, and we grow in some direction that changes us. This is a healthy part of life. Ideally, being in a relationship affords us someone who will help us celebrate that growth. Best friends share the story of their day, knowing that they will be encouraged, applauded or just listened to. Agree ahead of time not to criticize and not to be judgmental.
  • Problem solving takes a bit of time and patience. If you wish to discuss a particular issue with your beloved, give him/her the gift of fair-warning. Usually we want to talk about things after we have thought about them for awhile, but our mates may be clueless that something’s on our mind. To be fair, our partners deserve a warning and some time to think about issues before being put on the spot. Say “ I’d like to have a conversation about money, sex, children, relatives, jealousy etc… not now, but let’s make a date to talk”. Good joint decisions require unrushed thought and open discussion. Agree ahead of time to work on problems until a mutually satisfying solution is found. Patience, trust and perseverance are valuable building blocks in long-term relationships.
  • Stick and stones do break bones and names do hurt relationships. It is important to cool down when you are angry and avoid saying anything you might later have to apologize for. Every name that is called leaves a scar on our trust. Once there is scar tissue, it can feel unsafe to be open in a relationship. Before uttering cruel words, consider that they may cost you the entire relationship. There is a very steep price for losing your cool.

When children sit down to play a game, they almost always ask each other, “what are the rules?” After all, different people play by different rules. We all bring differences to the table and to our relationships; that doesn’t make one of us right and one of us wrong. In the beginning, we are attracted to each other’s differences. Over time, our differences can continue to keep things interesting!