Winning Together: 3 Rules for Making Conflict Work in Your Favor

Connection can be found in conflict, as long as you set it up that way in your relationship!

          For many couples, the mere mention of conflict or arguing sends them running for the hills.  This could come from the myth that if you are a happy couple in love, you should never fight.  The fact is that even the happiest couples disagree at times, and yet they still love their life together.  How is this possible?

          Changing your view or your relationship's approach to conflict is not a light switch that can be flipped and everything will be fine.  It will take time, commitment, patience, and understanding.  You can put things into place to start changing the way conflict is managed in your relationship.  You can start to see the value of winning together.  To start that journey, here are three rules worth putting into place to empower your relationship.

Rule 1:  Absolutely No Name-Calling

Couple talking

          When we're calm, this is an obvious rule.  However, if we are reacting emotionally or on the defensive, you might find this rule is harder to follow.  Have you found that when you feel attacked, you like to return the favor?  If we are hurting, we like to help the other person know what that hurt feels like and get back at them.

          As I've worked with couples, I've noticed a change in relationships once name-calling begins and the conflict shifts from the issue to personal attacks.  We can never get those words back, and our partners will never forget them.  With that in mind, make it a set-in-stone rule that there will be no name-calling.  Keep the focus on the issue at hand and how solve it together.  If name calling has been a feature of your relationship in the past, take the time to repair the damage and demonstrate to each other your love and commitment.

Rule 2:  Each Partner has Unlimited Timeouts

Couple taking a pause

          What are timeouts used for in sports?  Usually, it gives the coach a chance to refocus the players by changing their direction.  It is also used as a time to rest and recover, which also helps the players see the situation they are in differently.  This same tool can be used in your relationship to help keep conflict on the right path and to keep both of you focused on what is most important rather than getting lost in the details.

          The hard part about this rule is honoring each others' timeout when one is called.  This is especially the case if either one of you is the type that likes to get the last word in.  However, if a timeout is being called, see it as a sign that the discussion is getting out of hand and going down the wrong road.  When emotions get hot, you could be increasing the chances of insults and moving farther away from a resolution.

          Timeouts are to be used to take some time to calm yourself, refocus your energies, and concentrate on what the relationship needs.  Honor one another’s call for timeouts.  If you are in it for the long haul with your partner, then there is no need to rush ahead and try to force your way through an argument.  You have the time you need to win together, the key is to use it wisely.

Rule 3:  Focus on Solution-Finding

couple working together

          One of the biggest transformations I see when working with couples comes when they move from problem dwelling to solution-finding.  Problem dwelling is when we are hyper-focused on the content of our argument.  Every offense of each partner is brought up in chilling, painful detail which only fuels the fire of our emotional reaction.

          The fact is you don't need every example to know what the problem is.  You can work together to highlight what is going on that creates the trouble in your relationship.  If an example is necessary, keep it quick and simple.  You can even provide an example of you engaging in the problem behavior to help decrease defensiveness.  Getting to the root of the problem allows you to turn to solution-finding.

          Solution finding is a much different conversation than problem dwelling.  You're working together to figure out how you are going to move forward from the situation.  When you face conflict as a team rather than as competitors, you strengthen your connection and make the necessary course corrections.  The conversation takes on a completely different tone as you build one another up.

          It may take several conversations to truly reach a workable solution, especially if it's a recurring issue.  Use your timeouts to make sure you stay on the same team and keep your focus on the solutions.  Couples take on a new demeanor when they move from “we are doomed; we can’t get over this” to “we can do this together.”  Avoid the finger-pointing that comes with problem dwelling and embrace the empowering transformation of solution-finding.

          Conflict does not need to be scary, a sign that your relationship is over, or that there is something inherently wrong with you or your partner.  Conflict can be a powerful force for connection when it's used as a way to course-correct the relationship.  Be patient as you try out these three new rules and have realistic expectations.  You will need to try several times before their true impact is felt.  Empower your relationship by facing conflict directly and finding ways to win together!

Categories: Empowered Couples