Every relationship has conflict. Many people think it’s a bad thing or a sign of the relationship going down hill. The truth is that it’s normal and can actually be a way to know each other better if it’s done in a healthy way. Have you ever thought to use conflict as a way to get to know each other?
Think about it… You come into a relationship. You can’t read each other’s minds. So you do the dance of getting to know one another. Sometimes this is done through sharing and opening up, and other times it’s done through conflict.
Conflict arises because an unmet need comes to light. It can seem like petty things on the surface, but down deep it gives you a lot of information about how your loved one thinks, what they value, and what they need.
If someone is late and conflict arises, it could come across as someone being uptight and anal. But it also tells you about how that person values time or that they have anxiety when being late. Maybe they were really worried that something bad happened, and it comes out through conflict.
Having dishes in the sink can be a common fight….but it could also tell you about how a person likes their space kept or that they feel their hard work of cleaning the house feels disrespected when it’s not kept up. Maybe the person is upset because they don’t want to fell taken advantage of.
Here’s one more example…”We don’t have enough sex” or ” You’re never home”. These can tell you that the other person needs time together and that they feel lonely or disconnected.
Here’s some steps to use conflict to get to know each other better:
Look for depth
If you’re trying to get to know each other better through conflict, it’s going to take some digging to understand that there’s something deeper there. Asking a question like “Can you help me understand why this is so important to you?” is a way to guide you there. Maybe the issue is triggering something from their past. Maybe it’s touching some underlying issues like shame or abandonment. Look for clues about what is driving the discontentment.
Ask what they need
When you remember that conflict is about an unmet need, it helps you focus on a possible solution by understanding the need and working to meet it. Simply ask something like, “What do you need from me to help?”
Try to get to the root feeling
It’s good to dig deep and understand the need, but it’s also important to “get” how they feel. Are they feeling disrespected? Scared? Unimportant? Overwhelmed? Lonely? Knowing the root of how they’re feeling can help you empathize with your loved one. This will help you put more puzzle pieces together about WHY the gripe was so important to them to begin with.
Seek to understand and not defend
When someone is airing a complaint, we are often quick to defend ourselves. Doing this immediately puts you on opposite teams and keeps you from using the conflict for good in your relationship. Shift your mindset to something like “There’s something I’m missing and don’t understand. I can only understand when I get closer.” It’s almost like you’re a detective and “studying” your partner to get to know them better. This shift in your thinking will help reduce the defensive walls that can easily come up during conflict.
Use this info to love them well
Once you understand your partner better, you can use the new information to build more connection. If you’ve really “heard” them and get the deeper need and why it’s so important, you can see their gripe isn’t just about the surface topic. It’s coming from a more vulnerable place that can bond you deeper. It’s a way for you to show love and respect by being mindful about their needs.
In healthy relationships, these steps should be done by both partners. Part of loving someone is getting to know how to best love them in the way they need to be loved. Using conflict to get to know each other better is a way to use even the hard times to build on a stronger foundation.
Do you use conflict to learn about your loved one?