By Orly Katz, LCPC at Everyday Counseling and Coaching Services
When you hear the word “conflict,” what are some of the images that come to mind? Fighting? Arguing? Anger? While conflict may not be most comfortable thing to deal with in a relationship, the truth is that it happens. Every couple will experience moments of conflict, of disagreement, of different perspectives. Conflict in itself isn’t a bad thing – it is how we deal with conflict that can make a situation positive or negative. Before diving into some self-assessment, take a look at the following video to learn more about conflict and how we can re-purpose this issue to work in our favor.
Now that we have a better understanding of conflict, let’s consider the following questions. This exercise can be done individually or in a conversation with your partner. The purpose is to learn more about your personal conflict styles and how these can be used to make conflict work for your relationship.
- Reflect on your childhood and earliest experiences of conflict. How was conflict modeled for you growing up? What happened when you engaged in conflict as a child?
- Think about a recent conflict you’ve experienced. What feelings arose in you during this?
- What is your approach to dealing with conflict day to day? Do you prefer to avoid it, escalate it, or engage with it?
- What are your personal triggers for the fight, flight, or freeze response? What kinds of situations cause these, and do you react in different ways in different circumstances?
- In your relationship, do you or your partner actively avoid or diffuse conflict frequently? Has this resulted in disengagement from the relationship?
- In what ways do you and your partner commit to being vulnerable and curious when experiencing conflict? How can you embed these strategies into future conflicts and hold each other accountable to trying them more often?
By taking the time to reflect and have an open conversation about conflict, you and your partner are already engaging in curiosity and vulnerability. What does that feel like for each of you? It probably isn’t as bad as you’d expect! Next time you see conflict rising, remember to keep your mind and heart open, communicate your feelings and needs, and be ready to hear a different perspective (and share yours as well).