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Conflict gets bad press, but it’s an inevitable part of life.

Occasional quarrels or disagreements within a relationship are normal and healthy. Couples can’t agree on everything because we are all individuals with different views, experiences, needs and opinions. The differences between people are what make our relationships interesting and can keep them alive.

Sometimes a disagreement can clear the air, get your feelings out in the open and therefore bring a couple closer together. A difference of opinion means that each one of you is being true to what you believe in and need in the relationship and outside of it. It’s important to be yourself!

The phrase opposites attract is so relevant when we’re talking about relationships. As individuals we are initially attracted to our partner because they are a unique person and different to us. It is essential to maintain our own uniqueness, for our own sakes but also for our relationship to thrive.

Interestingly, one of the common reasons couples breakup is lack of passion or attraction rather than a lack of love. The attraction is difficult to nurture if we don’t maintain our separateness. This means asserting our opinions and needs in a relationship and allowing the other person to do the same.

With that said, if a row or conflict between a couple becomes really heated or is ongoing (because a solution has not been reached) this can also be harmful for your union. If words become cruel or personal they can hurt! It can be really difficult for your partner to forget things said in an angry outburst and they could lose trust in you. It is impossible to take the words back and if they impact your relationship in a negative way you will have to live with that sense of regret, plus resentment from your other half.

In my work with clients I’ve noticed that while some people can have an argument, clear the air and then put it behind them, others find conflict really difficult to handle. This can be because they’ve experienced turbulent and maybe traumatic experiences in their past making them fearful of angry reactions. It can also be because one partner grew up in a family that didn’t communicate in this way (either because problems were not discussed or issues were dealt with more calmly and rationally).

So now we understand that some disagreement is inevitable in a healthy, honest relationship. Yet conflict can get out of hand and have a real negative impact if it’s not dealt with thoughtfully. Below are some tips to help.

DO’S and DON’TS when dealing with conflict:

DON’T deny, avoid or ‘gloss’ over issues. Problems can set in if we constantly deny feelings or don’t speak our truth with a partner just to keep the peace. We can start to feel resentful of losing part of ourselves within the relationship. Not expressing our needs also denies the other person the opportunity to fully know, understand and love us. Interestingly this can also lead to the passive/aggressive dynamic in a relationship which fuels angry conflict.

DON’T make it a competition! Fighting or competing to be right or to win the argument is a bad move. You have to decide whether it is more important to be right or to be happy. Pick your battles, if you feel really strongly about something then put your point across and stand your ground that this is your view and will remain so. But attempting to ‘win’ every time could cost you the relationship eventually.

DON’T talk when angry. If you are angry and emotions are heightened take a break before talking. Say something like “I’m too angry to talk right now. Let’s talk later when I’ve/we’ve calmed down.” Then give yourself some space, maybe a walk or just remove yourself for a while until you feel calmer.

DON’T discuss things when you’re hungry or tired.

DO talk about things when they’re small. Mention things that bother you earlier rather than later. Letting them build up and become overwhelming will make it difficult for you to talk about them rationally.

DO listen. Let the other person have their say without being interrupted.

DO talk about the action, behaviour or situation that you don’t agree with rather than attacking the other person. Explain why it is upsetting or important to you. You could say something like “When this happened or when you said …. It made me feel….. It made me feel this way because…..”

DO deal with one issue at a time. Avoid temptation to throw past disagreements or situations into the discussion. Just stick to the point at hand.

DO be prepared to apologise. Sometimes you have to make the choice of being happy rather than always being ‘right’. Apologising doesn’t mean you have to accept that you were wrong. It means saying that you are sorry that there was a disagreement, and you are sorry that your partner is upset, and that you are committed to finding a way forward that works for you both. Even if you feel you are right, apologising for the way the disagreement made your partner feel will go a long way to him/her feeling understood.

DO be flexible. Compromise should be a joint effort. This means if you are going to solve the disagreement as a couple, both parties should be prepared to give up or change something to come to middle ground that both are happy with. A collaboration is even better than compromise. This is when you both agree to work together to find a way to resolve the conflict.

DO seek to understand even if you don’t agree. For moving towards a solution of compromise or collaboration you will both need to seek to understand the other’s point of view and why they feel strongly about the issue.

Dealing with conflict is a skill and it becomes easier with practice. Try not to get upset if these discussions don’t end up with a harmonious conclusion every time. The important thing is that you both respect each other and want to resolve any issues that arise. This means that you work as a team and don’t get competitive about ‘winning’.

As a hypnotherapist I often work with clients who want to improve their relationships. Communication and conflict are areas that people commonly struggle with.

Hypnotherapy improves our self-esteem and helps us to deal with any anxiety or fear around conflict. This empowers us to feel more relaxed and confident in ourselves. These positive states of mind will impact all areas of our life including our close relationships


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