You don’t have to get rid of conflict – even the happiest marriages have it. You don’t even have to resolve it. You do have to get through your conflicts with more love than when you started.
The good news is: You don’t have to learn special, new ways of communicating. You do have to focus on what you can do in the middle of conflict. Take these three steps to get through your couples conflicts with infinitely growing love, gratitude, and connection.
1. When you start to lose the feeling of connection and intimacy with your partner, and start to feel critical, frustrated, or cold, say to yourself: If it’s intense it’s my own.
That’s right! Make it about you. There’s a lot you can do on your own to have a great relationship – and you’ll learn something about yourself in the process. 2. Get to know the good intentions of your anger or coldness.
This is the hardest step and the easiest step. It’s the hardest step because: Your anger or coldness can be fast and powerful. You have to catch it before it takes over. You have to take a chance and consider that your anger is more than it seems. At first it’s hard to imagine that your anger might have good intentions. You’ve been taught that anger or distance is bad. It doesn’t make sense until you try it. You have to be willing to take a chance and do an experiment. This step is easy once you try it!
Mona Barbera, Ph.D is a licensed psychologist practicing in Boston, Mass., and Providence, RI. She specializes in couples therapy, and provides workshops for couples and couples therapy training workshops for psychotherapists. She is author of the book, "Bring Yourself to Love." For more information on her, please see her web site at http://www.monabarbera.com.
Once you become curious about your own anger or coldness, you’ll understand that it is trying to protect you. You will see that your anger thinks you need protection, and maybe even thinks you are a small child. You might hear it say: “You’re just a child, you’re in danger, I have to protect you, this is too dangerous.”
Remember the key is: Don’t try to get rid of your anger. Once you do this step, you will be able to say to yourself: I get the good thing my anger is trying to do now. I see how my anger is a friend in strange clothing. I appreciate how my anger is trying to help and protect me. I understand how my anger sees me as the child I used to be, not the adult I am now – it is living in the past, and remembering when I was small and vulnerable.
Here are some examples from real-life partners who tried this: I have to get cold and distant when my wife says I’m not doing something right because my dad always said he could tell what I was thinking and then beat me for thinking wrong things.
I have to get angry when my husband takes his eyes off the road when he’s driving because otherwise it makes me feel like the little girl who wasn’t protected by her parents – they didn’t watch me and I almost drowned, they didn’t supervise me and my brother abused me.
3.Come back to the present and stay calm, curious, connected, and compassionate, even if your partner is still doing the same thing.
You’ll be surprised and delighted at the love you are giving and receiving!