Relationships that thrive are not void of conflict, change and numerous challenges. Relationship success is a daily and conscious effort. Relationships require work! But the rewards are an abundance of joy, happiness, enhanced personal growth and even improved health. It takes more than just love or even commitment to successfully navigate any relationship. Partners that stay together should be proud of their ability to weather the stormy seas and sail forward to new and better days.
Here are six key skills to help you cruise through conflict and accelerate your relationship success.
View your partner as a friend, not foe
Often times we forget the person we have chosen to share life with is foundationally a friend – someone whose well-being and feelings we genuinely care about. But in times of conflict, we tend to have an “It’s me against you” mentality. We become adversaries and seek to win in arguments. If one “wins,” where does that leave the other? Do you really want your friend and partner to be a “loser”? If you treat each other with kindness, care and respect, even the toughest of times can be more manageable.
Keep conflicts current
Have you ever been tempted to say, “You always…” or “You never…”? Or what about bringing up that fight in 1992, when your partner was dead wrong and you can’t seem to let it go? Current problems are never solved by digging up past problems and throwing dirt toward one another. Stay with the topic at-hand when discussing relationship problems. When other issues come up (and we know how one dysfunction can breed another), agree to address that as well, but at another time.
Tame your tongue
Language has the power to crush the spirit of your partner and halt any chance of a resolution to problems. You don’t win an argument by swearing or name-calling. It is important to think before speaking; to pause before responding and to consider the effect of all words spoken, before it’s too late to take them back. Sometimes no amount of “I love you’s” or flowers can make up for harsh words spoken during conflict. During an argument, pretend your sweet little grandmother or your young daughter is standing beside you, and that may help tame your tongue.
Complain not criticize
Criticism, especially if it becomes habitual, can be hard on a relationship. It is OK to complain, but not to constantly criticize. Complain by calmly sharing how the other person’s behavior is not meeting your needs. Then, request what you desire instead. Don’t assume they know they are irking you or pushing your buttons. You can complain about your disappointments without attacking the person. But keep in mind, storing a list of complaints is not healthy. Know when to let it go, when to roll with it and when to speak up about your complaint. Steer clear of character attacks and you will be much more effective when cruising through conflicts.
Build intimacy beyond the bedroom
Intimacy is defined as a close, familiar and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship. This definition goes so much further than the usual interpretation of intimacy and is not confined by the four walls of a bedroom. Intimacy is shown through loving affection for your partner. This can be demonstrated by showing understanding during conflict and taking the time to hear the other side of the story. Intimacy can be developed through laughter and not taking things so seriously. Finding the humor in a situation immediately brings the conflict and tension down a level. Intimacy can be developed through encouragement and forgiveness. All of these emotions and reactions, particularly during times of conflict, can build intimacy between you and your partner and demonstrate that “affectionate or loving personal relationship” we all desire.
Embrace challenges of change
All relationships change over time. Whether it is a change in job, family, health or finances, change is a part of life. Crisis, which we all experience at some point in our lives, can also bring change. All of these changes can threaten even the strongest of relationships. Building a strong foundation with your partner, and practicing early how to effectively communicate and resolve conflict, can help steady your ship when the tides of change creep in. Embrace change in your partner, yourself and your relationship as an opportunity to grow together and continue to learn about each other, not as an excuse to grow apart.