Couples Conflict: How to Deal with Conflict in a Win Win Way
“Many marriages would be better if the husband and the wife clearly understood that they are on the same side.”– Zig Zigler
Let’s face it – relationship isn’t all roses and smiles. Once the initial courtship buzz has worn off, it takes work to keep our love blooming. Of course, today we have the added stress of COVID, working out of our homes, monitoring our children’s education. Do I need to say more?
I’ve been married 40 years. We’re still friends and we laugh everyday, but of course there’s conflict that we have to deal with. I find it takes willingness and practicing some simple skills, along with a sense of humor to get to the win-win.
Did you know the average couple waits 6 years from the time a problem starts until they seek help, according to John Gottman, author of 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.
The sad news is that two thirds of the couples I see may not make it because one of them is pretty much done. Why do we keep putting off dealing with our relationship problems? In part, because we humans hate conflict and so avoid it. And, in part, because we often don’t have the skills to do a better job.
Conflict with our partner can bring up all kinds of emotions: anxiety, anger, frustration or helplessness, fear of rejection. Ugh – no wonder we avoid wading into that mess.
Typical conflicts for couples are money, sex, kids, religion, housework, and the “right” way to do these. (For more about Couples & Money Stress “Couple Money Talk”)
Check out your conflict style in relationship: (No judgment)
- Avoid it at all costs
- Get critical or contemptuous of your partner
- Defend your position with everything you’ve got
- Stonewall – leave the situation emotionally or physically*
The good news is that we can all learn the skills to manage conflict in healthier and better feeling ways.
John and Julie Gottman recommend 6 Skills to Manage Conflict:
Here are 3 that promote a win-win and that will lead to less stress, anxiety and help you stay more connected.
- Soften your start-up by letting your partner know you’d like to discuss something and asking when a good time.
- Make Effecttive Repairs: Be willing to say “I’m sorry.” Getting pride out of the way and reaching out the olive branch isn’t weak – it’s loving.
- Self-soothing: When we’re upset our buttons are pushed and we’re reactive – in fight or flight. Take a few minutes to take a time out and calm down with your BREATH.
Learning how to manage conflict within ourselves and with our partners is a big deal. Be patient, be willing to try, fail and try again. After all – the WIN-WIN is a happier, healthier relationship. And, for gawd’s sakes keep laughing. If you can keep laughing together, you’re going to be ok.
(* From 7 Principles to Make Marriage Work)