When couples don’t see eye to eye, it’s easy to take offense, get defensive, shut down, put up walls, or even jump to worst case scenarios. Believe me, we all fall into one or more of these traps–even great marriages can slip into these negative cycles. They are our natural, human tendency, even though we know we need to do something different. When we’re hurt, especially by our partners, it can feel near impossible to change these habits.
It takes courage and some tenacity to decide to do something other than what feels natural. For me, I tend to either lash out in words I don’t mean, flip into disaster scenarios, or shut down altogether–I become the Ice Queen in the Ice Castle, barely penetrable even by the warmest of gestures or words.
So what’s the answer to overcoming conflict in your relationship? How can we demonstrate that we’re actually grown-ups who love each other, and not childish siblings fighting for our own rights?
It’s simple: Start with your needs, not your rights. What do you need to cool down and approach this conflict with love? I need time–and so does Eric, who’s a deep processor. Depending on what the conflict is about, I need time and guidance; that’s how I cool down and am encouraged to see hope of resolution–a light at the end of the tunnel! It is never easy, especially if this is a repeat problem. A cycle. The only thing that really helps is to give each other grace to honor our needs.
Set time aside and create an atmosphere of openness and intimacy. Make sure you both feel safe sharing your deeper, more vulnerable feelings and core needs. Then, find out what you agree on and how to compromise. Here is a great article from the Gottman Institute on the Art of Compromise. That’s the healthy cycle that will inevitably bring you to a place of peace and hope again. It can take some time, and multiple rounds, but it is well worth it.
Living in an ice castle is no fun for anyone! If you want to dive even deeper into conflict resolution and bringing hope to your relationship, make sure you register for our next conference. We can’t wait to see you there!