3 Ways to Handle Conflict in Romantic Relationships by Relationship Strategist CheVaughn Mack
To some people, the word conflict has a negative connotation associated with it. Don’t get me wrong, when conflict is used in an unhealthy manner, it certainly is negative and its effects can be damaging. Since conflict is a natural part of life, it’s safe to say that at some point, you will experience conflict in your romantic relationship.
I want to offer you the perspective that conflict in and of itself is not a negative thing, but the manner in which you choose to handle that conflict can make the outcome either negative or positive. In fact, how you choose to handle conflict directly correlates to the success of your relationship.
I have seen couples go to great lengths to avoid conflict in their relationship, and because they never dealt with the issues that they were trying so hard to avoid, those same issues ended up destroying their relationships. I have also seen couples be deliberate about addressing conflict and working through it in a healthy manner, and those couples ended up thriving in their relationships.
It doesn’t matter if you’re dating, engaged, or married, if you want to be like the latter group of couples who went on to be successful because of the manner in which they handled their conflict, just know that having a successful relationship will require some work on your behalf. Now, the work is not necessarily difficult, but it may cause you to pause if you are under the impression that your relationship is too far gone, or that the two of you are too set in your ways for you to change so that this can become a reality for you. You’re going to have to be deliberate, consistent, and willing to tap into your faith to see your relationship the way that God sees it. After all, God is the author of relationships.
Here are 3 Ways to Successfully Handle Conflict in Romantic Relationships.
1. Listen to understand and not just to respond. Hearing and listening are two different things. You may be hearing what your partner has to say to you, but not actually listening to them. It’s easy to let your mind wander, or start to formulate a response while your partner is still speaking. This is especially true if what your partner is saying offends you. One simple, yet effective way to help you listen to your partner in order to understand them is by using active listening. This can be done quickly in 5 short steps.
Step 1 – Give your partner your full attention while they are speaking.
Step 2 – Paraphrase to your partner what you believe you heard them say.
Step 3 – Ask your partner if what you paraphrased is accurate.
Step 4 – Listen to your partner’s response.
Step 5 – A. If your partner agrees with what you paraphrased:
Respond to what your partner said.
B. If your partner disagrees with what you paraphrased:
Ask your partner to correct the inaccuracies then repeat Steps 1-5.
2. Be mindful of what you say to and about your partner. In an effort to gain some sense of control in an argument, it may be tempting to hit your partner below the belt by saying some pretty messed up things to them. This can be especially true if they’ve said some pretty nasty things to you. During this fragile time, it is especially important that you are deliberate about what you say to and about your partner; even when they’re not around. Instead of using your words to tear your partner down, use them to build your partner up! Don’t believe the lie that many of us unknowingly rehearsed as a kid that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” because that is in direct contrast to what The Word of God says. Proverbs 18:21, in The Message Bible, says: Words kill, words give life; either poison or fruit – you choose. Now that’s pretty deep! Once words leave your mouth, they cannot be unspoken. You can apologize for them and try to make up for what you’ve said, but once you speak them, that’s it! Keep in mind that before words ever leave your mouth, the things that are in your heart and in your mind concerning your partner play a role in what you say to and about them. Take inventory of your words on a regular basis to ensure that you are consistently speaking life to your partner.
3. Model your relationship after a successful sports team. No matter which sport you choose to reference, the basic dynamics are the same. Each team consists of players and at least one coach. The amazing thing about being part of a team is that each individual player joins the team with their own set of expectations, experiences, and abilities, yet good coaches can orchestrate a plan to make those differences gel together and lead the team to victories against their opponents. The hope is that this can be accomplished while the players endure the least amount of injuries and make the least number of mistakes during the games. Coaches have knowledge of the overall vision for the team. Sometimes the coach will share that vision with the team, and other times the players just have to trust that the coach will share what they need to know, when they need to know it. Now substitute the players on the team for you and your romantic partner and the coaches for God (The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). When you let God be the coach of your relationship, you can leave all of the planning up to Him. All you have to do is follow the plan that He orchestrates for your relationship, and you will be guaranteed victory over any and all conflict that may arise.
There is no denying that relationships require work, but the work that you and your partner put in does not have to be hard! You can easily begin to put in work today by listening to understand and not just respond, being mindful of what you say to and about your partner, and modeling your relationship after a successful sports team.
- CheVaughn Mack, Relationship Strategist
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