I was recently watching a couple having a discussion. You know, one of those intense, trying to figure out how to communicate and connect kinds of conversations. I realized that most people don’t know that conflict in a relationship can be, and often is, a good thing, and that there are ways to finagle it so it can go well. Most of us think conflict is a sign of the beginning of the end of the relationship. Not necessarily, but without knowing its purpose, it could be.
Conflict in a Relationship is a Signal
Conflict alerts us that the relationship wants to go deeper. The third entity of the relationship is testing for safety. “I want to go deeper with you. Are you safe?” “Will you hold my heart gently if I go deeper with you?” “Will you protect my secrets if I let you deeper in my heart and soul?” We do all kinds of goofy, even damaging things to find out. We don’t know this is what the heart is asking so it shows up as “You never…” or “You always…” What we really mean is “I need you to….” and “Will you….?”
How to Work It
Don’t Demand to Be Heard. Instead, listen. It’s always, always, always good practice to listen to the needs beneath the others person’s concerns and complaints. A complaint is always an unspoken request. “You never pick up your socks” is really “Would you pick up your socks?”
The reason arguments can go on so long and we repeat ourselves over and over is because we don’t feel heard. We say it this way and that way, and louder, and with more examples trying to get our point across. But … If the two of you can learn to listen to each other’s needs, everything will change. What is the other really asking for? Maybe picking up the socks isn’t about socks. Maybe it’s about respect. There are reasons we want what we want. Listening for needs beneath the concerns is a skill. It can be learned.
While You’re Learning
It can be a huge help to have someone guiding this learning process. After all, if you could do it now, you would already be doing it. I learned fabulous skills in my relationship systems training for this kind of thing. I don’t know of anything that is as effective. I realized while in training that if my former spouse and I could have gone to someone who knew what I was learning we could have had a different outcome. I want that for you. If you’re stuck in conflict, call me. It could save your relationship.