When we get into conflict and we do it the right way, we actually learn how to love each other better.
Within the most difficult relationship problems lie the biggest opportunities for intimacy and growth. All of that starts with choosing how you will respond to your partner when a conflict comes up. So let’s be gentle with each other and repair often.
Show Your Hurt Instead of Hurting
If we always lash out at people who’ve hurt us, we’re giving them the perfect reason not to listen to us. Rather than getting critical, we can courageously reveal our hurt.
A gentle confession of vulnerability is nearly impossible to ignore.
Here’s how to do it:
Husband: “Honey, would you mind turning off the TV?”
Husband: “I want to talk to you about my work and when you are watching the TV, it feels like our conversation is done. I know it’s dumb, but I’m sensitive so when I see something like that it sort of makes me feel like I don’t matter to you. I know I talk about my work often and it’s really important to me to hear your opinion on it because I’m struggling with it.”
Wife: “I’m so sorry. I’ve been so caught up in this show. Of course I want to listen. Let me pause it.”
The way the husbanded complained and how the wife responded prevented the conflict from escalating. Showing hurt makes it easier for your partner to show warmth, comfort, and emotional support.
Lovers who ignore the lesson of expressing hurt will face conflict without end.
A Lesson in Love
Conflict is designed to teach us how to love each other better if we are willing to learn the lesson. When we don’t, conflict can become inflamed from emotional disconnection.
The problem is that we are often terrible teachers of our hearts and misbehaving students of our partners. The only way to make your relationship better is to learn how to love your partner better and to teach them how to love you better.
Good complaints are the salvation of love. Love lasts when two people are willing to take on the roles of the patient and kind teacher, and the curious, non-defensive student.
1. Huston, T., & Caughlin, J. (2001). The connubial crucible: Newlywed years as predictors of marital delight, distress, and divorce. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 80 No. 2 (Feb. 2001), P237-252. ↩
2. Pasch. L. A., & Bradbury, T. N. (1998). Social support, conflict, and the development of marital dysfunction. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66(2), 219-30. ↩
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