Scientific research keeps pointing to maintaining connections with others as a key to living longer and healthier. This article is a basic guide for managing the inevitable conflict that comes in the most intimate relationships we have.
Healthy couples address the conflict.
“Some partners shut down and give each other the silent treatment or avoid the problem in other ways, said Bush, also author of the book 75 Habits for a Happy Marriage: Advice to Recharge and Reconnect Every Day. However, healthy couples are “willing to talk about what’s going on.”
Healthy couples see conflict as an opportunity.
“They see [conflict] as a means for growing together… an opportunity to understand each other better and to clarify their needs and values,” Bush said.”
“The conflict doesn’t become a disconnect or a power struggle but an opportunity for both of them to create something new,” according to Harville Hendrix, Ph.D, co-creator of Imago Relationship Therapy with his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D. It becomes an opportunity to have a conversation, he said.”
Healthy couples value each other’s perspective.
“Healthy couples believe that each partner has a valid point of view, whether they agree with them or not, said Hendrix, also author of several books on relationships, including the bestseller Getting the Love You Want. They realize that “there are legitimate differences and they understand that they don’t live in each other’s brains.”
Healthy couples consider their contribution to the conflict.
“Partners in healthy relationships “own their own stuff,” Bush said. They’re willing to look at how they’re contributing to the problem, she said.”
Healthy couples fight fair.
“Unlike unhealthy couples, they don’t name-call, insult, curse or hit below the belt, Bush said. They also don’t “bring up every problem that’s ever occurred.”
“Instead, “they stick to the issue at hand and have a respectful, curious attitude.” Instead of being defensive and focusing on explaining themselves, they’re interested in what their partner has to say.”
Healthy couples really listen.
“They give each other their undivided attention. They don’t interrupt or make remarks such as “That’s not right” or “Where did you get such a stupid idea?” Hendrix said. Rather, they are “fully … present to their partner’s point of view.”
Healthy couples kiss and make up.
“Typically, after an argument, healthy couples end up feeling supported, heard and understood, Bush said. Partners might apologize or say something like “I love you. We’re in this together,” she said.”
A list like this can be daunting. Make an assessment, figure out one or two areas to focus on. You and your partner don’t have to choose the same area.
Keep it in your conscious awareness so that when you “slip up” you can make a correction. Learning is not about doing it perfectly. It’s about making mistakes and making the corrections over and over.