It’s important to remember that conflict within your relationship is normal, but there are certainly ways to deal with it that are better than others! Natalie Lee explores how to successfully deal with conflict within your relationship.
Newsflash: You are separate individuals. You have been brought up by different people, maybe in different areas, and maybe from completely different cultures with your own unique way of doing things. The aim here is not to eradicate disagreements but rather learn how to navigate them more effectively without them escalating or building those big bolder blocks of resentment, which will only serve to slowly strangle the life out of your relationship. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience.
What are you really fighting about?
It’s also worth remembering that often, the thing you’re arguing about is rarely about the real thing you’re arguing about. On the surface you might be arguing about the cost of wedding flowers, but try to strip it back and look at what’s lies underneath. Yes, flowers may seem trivial but if they’re not understanding your point of view, or why you want to get certain ones, is it inadvertently giving you another message – that they don’t care about your feelings or opinion, that they’re the one that earns most of the money so it’s up to them how it’s spent, that they don’t respect you? It is unlikely that they are saying anything to deliberately to hurt you so try to identify the feeling/s rather than focus on the action and (probably when you’ve calmed down) communicate this to your partner.
When you are planning a wedding, emotions are high. There’s a lot at stake, a lot to think about, agree on and pay for. Is it any wonder that pre-wedding squabbles will happen? In fact, I think you’d be pretty weird if you had no arguments during this period at all!
Stay with the one issue
When you disagree, don’t throw in the kitchen sink and drag other things into it – the flirty text you found on their phone 10 years ago or how they didn’t stick up for you in front of your mother-in-law. What lies underneath your grievance and how does their behaviour really make you feel? Express the feelings that arise for you to your partner. Communicating this gives them a deeper understanding of the true issue.
Describe the behaviour or the action and don’t link it intrinsically to their character
For example, don’t say “You didn’t put that dirty plate away because you’re a lazy and terrible person who doesn’t give a shit about how I feel.” Instead try, “When you don’t put your plate away it makes me feel like you don’t care about hurting me, it makes me feel sad and irrelevant because I’ve asked you to do this many times but you don’t seem to hear me.”
Give the conflict time and space
If you often feel dismissed when you argue, calmly agree to discuss it at a suitable time for both of you. Anger and frustration are completely normal emotions but they are not the best ones for getting things resolved.
Express how important it is that you’re heard so make sure it’s at a time when they can actively listen, not during a Zoom call, when you are tired or whilst the kids are demanding you play pick-up sticks. Sometimes, it’s not always possible or appropriate to have that discussion as it arises. Agree to come back to it later.
If things get heated, if you both start screaming at each other, if no one is listening: Stop. Have a break and come back to it when you both feel more settled.
Apologising and forgiveness
Despite all the best intentions in the world, we can all be less than the best versions of ourself from time to time – we’re human and sometimes we really do need to hold our hands up and apologise. Don’t let your ego come in the way of resolution. Conceding doesn’t make you weak and digging your heels in doesn’t make you strong and powerful. There is true strength in being vulnerable and admitting when you fuck up. Likewise, having the ability to forgive is liberating. Holding onto resentment causes you more pain than it will ever cause anyone else.
In order to move on from arguments a good apology is often needed. Here are some tips on how to say sorry and ensure that the recipient feels your apology wholeheartedly.
- Take full ownership of your mistake
“I’m really sorry I did that to you; you really didn’t deserve me to treat you that way” is good. “I’m sorry you feel that way” IS NOT an apology because you’re not taking any ownership of what you said or did. You might as well not say anything at all.
Never use the word ‘but’ after you apologise. “I’m really sorry but if you hadn’t of done this, I wouldn’t have acted like that” Or “…but I was only trying to help” is not useful, it completely undermines your apology and makes it null and void.
- Don’t minimise your behaviour
“I was just…” Nope, stop!
The severity and impact of your behaviour is not yours to judge. You may feel that they have over-reacted or were overly-sensitive. It is not your role to determine how someone should respond to your behaviour. If you really are sorry for what you did even if you think their reaction was exaggerated – apologise and don’t comment on their response to your actions.
- Be specific
General apologies don’t cut it. “I’m sorry for everything.” Nope. Actually, describe what you did and if possible, how it affected them.
- Don’t apologise because you want an apology from them
Swallow your pride and apologise like you really mean it. Don’t apologise because you want them to apologise. Truly reflect on your part and say sorry from the heart. They may or may not apologise to you – that is not yours to dictate. Take control of your own behaviours, reflect and learn from it.
- Don’t push acceptance or forgiveness on them
If you apologise and they haven’t accepted it or haven’t gone back to being ok with you as quickly as you’d like, it’s not your right to enforce that on them.
Apologising whilst angry, mid-argument or shouting “OK SORRY!” is more than likely not going to be heard or felt by them. If you’re truly sorry come back to them once emotions have calmed.
It’s good to ask them if there is anything else you can do to either rectify the situation or to make them feel better. This lets them know you’re really thinking about them and their feelings and not just doing it to make yourself feel better.
So, now your expert on how arguing better – not winning an argument – but how to communicate your issues with your person and how to apologise and have it felt. Remember arguments are totally normal and all relationships are a work in progress, even if you’ve been together for a really long time.
Natalie Lee started her fashion blog, Style Me Sunday, in 2012 during her second pregnancy. She is a vehement promoter of body confidence which culminated in her collaborating with Dove for her Warrior Woman Project. Since then, her work has expanded into podcaster (The Everything Project), speaker, writer and more recently her incredibly empowering event, Feeling Myself. She regularly runs courses on anything from social media tips to manifesting. Find her on Instagram @stylemesunday.