Anyone who has ever been in a serious long-term relationship, also had to deal with the conflicts that arise from being in such a relationship. When these conflicts occur, their effects are on a scale with a completely devastating, emotional argument on the one side and a quick amicable solution on the other side. Usually we want to solve relationship issues without getting hurt. I will be sharing some of the techniques my wife and I use with you. I will admit that we are still in the honeymoon phase of our marriage (we’ve been married for about 3 months now), and things are easier for us than for older couples. However, we have used these techniques when we were dating too, and they worked for us, so hopefully they will work for you too.
This advice will only work assuming that you are in a fairly healthy relationship, i.e. you still love one another. If one of you have an untreated mental condition, or if there is some manipulative behaviour going on, you should see a professional as soon as possible.
Remember that they still love you
This is the most important, simplest and hardest thing to add to your relationship’s conflict resolution repertoire. It is very easy to remember your partner’s love when you are having fun together, but when they are mad about all the overtime you put in for work, it is easy to forget their true motive. It is easy to see your significant other as the enemy when conflict arises, but it is important to see them for the team-mate they are. When you remember their love , it becomes easier to work with them rather than against them.
Remember that you love them
Just as important as the point above, albeit a little easier. Remember when you told your wife that you love her more than anything else in the world? Well, now is the time to put action to those words. If you are having an argument about the amount of time you spend playing computer games, it is time to realise that she is more important than those games. Don’t let the games become between you and your wife. Yes, there should be space in the relationship for the things you enjoy on your own, but that space shouldn’t come at the cost of the relationship! If you remember that you love your partner more than the thing you are arguing about, it will be easier to find a solution that fits both of you well.
Let your wishes be known
If your boyfriend wants to take you out on a romantic date to MacDonalds, the best course of action is to tell him that you don’t find MacDonalds romantic at all, and you’d rather grab a TV dinner from the supermarket for a romantic evening at home (unless you find MacDonalds romantic, who am I to judge?). Remember that there is a difference between accommodating your partner and being unselfish for the sake of being unselfish. When you are unselfish for the sake of it, you make your partner your platform for moral superiority, which brings a very weird and uncomfortable dynamic into the relationship. Rather make your wishes clear, and from there find an amicable solution that will work for both you and your partner.
Don’t be afraid of compromise
In contrast to my point above, you should know when to make a compromise. Be honest to yourself about what you are prepared to give up for the happiness of your spouse. I recently watched a movie where the main character repeatedly stated: “Happy wife, happy life.” This goes for both sexes though. “Happy husband, happy life” doesn’t rhyme, but that doesn’t make it less true! If you are willing to make a sacrifice, do it! It is important though, that it shouldn’t really feel like that much of a sacrifice, and you shouldn’t be expecting a reward for it. If you aren’t doing it as an act of love, you are being unselfish for the wrong reasons, like above.
Focus on the issue
The issue isn’t your partner. Yes, he is the one that doesn’t hang up his wet towels, but that doesn’t make him a bad person. When conflict arises (with anyone) don’t make it personal, focus on the object of the conflict, and work on resolving that. Keep the temptation to blame your partner for the problem at bay. Keep the personal stuff for showing love, but keep the conflict as businesslike as possible. It will be easier for your significant other to keep calm if they don’t feel attacked.
As I said, these principles work well for me and my wife, but then, we’ve only been married for 3 months. Maybe I should check back to this post after 5 years? Anyway, there is no reason for conflict in a relationship to turn ugly, try to keep your cool, and remember what your relationship really is about. In Afrikaans, I sometimes ask people: “Gaan dit oor jou, of oor julle?” This can be best translated as: “Is it about you(singular), or you(plural)?”