Season 4 Break GIF by FriendsGiphy
I'm sure most of us remember the infamous Ross and Rachel fiasco: "We were on a break!" A clear message that depicts relational conflict, which is inevitable, common, and consequential in close relationships. Specifically in romantic relationships, they are bound to happen. The question then becomes, how should couples communicate during conflict?
... No, I'm looking to you for the answer. To hell if I know. The best I can do is share what I've learned, which I guess is all we can do, right?
I believe the first thing to do is discover for ourselves is what your stress responses is. What is a stress response? Great question I would love to let Google tell you: "The stress response, or 'fight or flight' response is the emergency reaction system of the body. It is there to keep you safe in emergencies. The stress response includes physical and thought responses to your perception of various situations." Good ol' reliable Google. A lot of these can result in physical reactions, but for arguments sake (literally), let's talk about verbal, emotional actions.
I volunteer as tribute - I'll be vulnerable and share my toxic stress response: I tend to be a very high volumed yeller, or in some cases, can result in physicality. Sis ain't proud. It's hard for me to admit, but the first step in fixing your behavior, is to acknowledge it, right? Besides, accountability will always feel like an attack to someone who isn't ready to acknowledge their behavior - remember that for yourself and for others. I full heartedly believe if you can discover your personal stress response(s), then you can learn to control them better in emotional situations. If you continue to engage in your toxic behavior, it can be extremely damaging and detrimental to yourself, your partner and any future relationships you have.
Want to know a fun fact? "Misunderstanding is the cause of 90% of all conflicts. So simply giving the parties a chance to understand each other is huge." Man, Google is the best. A huge revelation for me was actually understanding what a "misunderstanding" was. Where I used to think, "Oh, we just misunderstood and miscommunicated with each other." La la la, bring on the singing birds and sunshine. Don't get me wrong, miscommunication is definitely a huge part of it. However, I learned recently that more misunderstandings stem from a conscious choice to misunderstand your partner, or rather, you're refusing to understand them.
When you stop and think about it from that logical perspective and less from an emotional standpoint, you realize how unbelievably messed up that is. A key component to truly, genuinely, rawly and authentically love someone is to make the conscious decision to know that they do not have the same brain as you do; therefore, they do not think or process things the way that you do. And guess what? That's okay. If someone had the same brain and thought process as you, I'm pretty sure you'd just be dating yourself. I don't know what y'all but I don't really want to date a version of me... but hey, I'm not here to judge. I want a partner who will honor and take care of me, my thoughts, feelings and opinions but also challenge me in a respectful, loving way to think more broadly and less narrow-minded, when necessary - A.K.A. call me out on my bullshit. With that being said, I would also appreciate a partner who values me enough to view me as the same for them. Having that beautiful balance in a partnership, I've learned, is super important with having a healthy, long-lasting relationship.
The next crucial realization was learning that conflicts continue to escalate because instead of teaming up with your partner and going against the problem, you team up with the problem and fight against your partner. There is this heightened desperate need we all get when caught in conflict to prove why we're "right." One of the biggest lessons I learned from this: when you're both trying so desperately to prove to the other person why you're 'right' and why they're 'wrong', you both miss the point of partnership. So in the end, you both lose. What's the point? You end up pushing your partner further away, and take it from me, your pride isn't as important as your person. Instead of trying to be right, try to be the light.
At the end of the day, if there's no conflict resolution, if one or both partners don't talk about the situation, it will be a continual cycle of destruction and damage to the relationship. It will do nothing but build resentment, cause anger and bitterness, which will then likely lead to the devastating result of falling out of love with your partner and giving up. This always breaks my heart to think about this being the cause to the end because it could've been prevented.
As painful, sometimes awkward and uncomfortable these conversations can be, they are very necessary. It's one thing, however, to sit and discuss the issue at hand but then to follow forth with changed action and behavior is what will truly keep a relationship healthy. An apology without changed behavior is just manipulation.
When all is said and done, only you can control you. Our greatest power in life is our ability to respond. During those arguments and off-days with your partner, try to stay grounded in what really matters. Hold on to your love for this individual rather than your ego. Remember why you started, why you chose them, why you fell in love with them. They're still that same person from your first date as they are in that emotional conflict. It really all is a choice, and what a beautiful honor that is, right? To say, "I choose them to go through the good, bad and ugly times with." When life takes you through battles and to war, to know that you've got the strongest soldier fighting with you - never against you... that's badass.
Life isn't easy, and it has a funny way of making love hard. To have someone walk with you, knowing you can trust and count on them, who stands beside you, laughs with you, challenges you and adores every piece of you - that is a love worth fighting for.
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