Few people truly enjoy conflict, especially with the ones we love, but conflict is necessary to the health of our most treasured relationships. And while it’s not comfortable to encounter disagreement, many professionals will agree that it’s a required element of a happy, healthy, long-lasting relationship.
Conflict improves communication over time
Learning to communicate, and to talk things out, ranks as a top marker of how to make marriage a success, not surprising considering the destructive ending when things are left to “stew.” We all know about the importance of good communication skills in general, but in a committed relationship like a marriage, they are essential to the entire health of the marriage. And that includes conflict.
Many couples think that if they have conflict, they aren’t “getting along,” but psychologist John Gottman argues the contrary: “Instead of seeing conflict as a sign that you and your partner are incompatible, you can see it as a natural, constructive part of knowing somebody really well.” So by changing the way we view conflict, we can invite such tense moments into our relationships as a means of improving the way we understand and communicate with one another. Gottman also argues that this sort of “conflict fear” is cultural and mainly seen in the western part of the world, specifically the U.S.
Conflict changes the way you view one another
In addition to improving the way we view conflict and communication, arguing also changes the way we see the other person. The key is to end arguments constructively, and not destructively. For example, if you get to the point where you are throwing around personal attacks like confetti, this will only make your spouse or significant other view you in a more negative light. However, if you are able to achieve “repairing conversations,” where goals are set and progress is made, then you are more likely to view the other with respect. That leads to a more intimate and loving relationship full of empathy rather than grudges.
Of course that’s easier said than done, so here’s a tip. When arguing, it’s important to see the other side so you can really understand your partner. To do this, try to talk that out. For example, if you and your partner are arguing over how long to stay at a family birthday party, one person could communicate this sort of understanding by simply saying, “I know that you feel uncomfortable around certain family members. I respect that and appreciate the sacrifice you are making in going with me today. Explain to me what would make you feel better in this situation so that we can make a compromise.”
By actually telling the person that you know how they feel, you are communicating to them that you in fact to see their side and want to strike a happy balance with them at the culmination of the discussion. You’ve also put a positive end in sight so there’s a “purpose” to the argument.
Conflict strengthens the relationship overall
Overcoming any sort of argument in a positive way can and will add strength to a relationship, but don’t let the end of an argument be the end of the conversation. Use the argument to discuss how to make things better.
Relationship expert Tracey Cox suggests that couples should seek solutions and ask each other: “How do you think we can avoid this happening in the future?” This is excellent advice because it forces couples to look to the future and beyond the immediacy of the argument. Essentially, you are putting the other person’s importance above whatever the argument was about, and are instead using the argument to better the relationship overall.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=0553447718][amazon template=iframe image&asin=1451608489][amazon template=iframe image&asin=157224481X]