Conflict in relationships is part of the growing and expanding love opportunity. You can choose to join forces support and heal each other through each conflict, or let each successive conflict tear away and erode the relationship until there is nothing left to fight for.
If you as a couple unite and allow for conflict to be a tool for advancing your love, creating deeper meaning, connection, and intimacy in your relationship, you will find the buried treasure in fighting and are very blessed indeed.
To effectively approach conflict in its most positive and powerful form, it might be good to understand what fighting is all about.
1. Fighting is Not about Us
When you’re in the midst of a passionate discussion, conflict, or fight, try to keep in mind that while the surface message may be an important message about you, your relationship, some circumstance or situation surrounding your relationship, honor and listen to this surface message, but the passionate delivery or rage, has little or nothing to do with you or your relationship.
2. Fighting is about Fear
A useful part of our physiology, the brain’s secretion of the danger cocktail (a combination of Adrenaline, Cortisol, and Norepinephrine hormones) disconnects all resources that might be used for conducting thoughtful rationale in exchange for the focused struggle for survival, a definite advantage when encountering man-eating lions, tigers, and bears. And fear is the trigger that sounds the alarm, overriding our nervous system.
The “fear” may not be what it appears to be on the surface. You will notice this when your first reaction might be, “Why are you so upset?” because the subject doesn’t seem to match such an intense emergency response. In this case, most likely, the fear is anchored in your partner’s past.
We all accumulate fears from the time we are born, and they routinely express themselves as we walk through our adult lives (often at the most inopportune times) and link themselves to something which triggers the emergency response and you are prepared to fight or run as fast as you can to avoid peril or impending doom.
3. You as a Couple are Allies
Remembering that you are in this together is a key component. When you are facing an obstacle, challenge, or emotionally charged threat to the relationship, remember it is not you against your partner. It is you and your partner linked side-by-side heart-to-heart against this invisible adversary who is trying to come between you.
You and your partner are committed to each other and this relationship. You wouldn’t intentionally do anything to hurt your partner. You love and support him or her and would do anything to help him or her.
And if you can clearly see your partner overreacting to an issue and spinning out of control emotionally, this is a sign that your partner needs your help. So, stay calm, don’t let yourself get lost in the drama, be the strong support that your partner needs in this vulnerable and sensitive state.
4. Pay Attention
Listen and pay attention to what might be represented as unspoken content or underlying fear. Honor the surface message by clearly understanding what your partner is trying to communicate and seek clarification and acknowledgment that you are understanding correctly while continuing to look below the surface for clues.
Our fears, which hold us back and block us from our highest potential have accumulated and followed us from birth, and these fears are normally anchored to our relationship with our parents (like fear of loss, or abandonment) or other childhood traumas.
If you are attentive and fueled by the love for your partner and his or her best interests, you might be able to uncover the hidden connection to his or her fear(s) from the past. This is when you,
5. Find the Buried Treasure
The buried treasure in the conflict.
An example might be,
You and your partner agreed to (driving in separate vehicles) meet in the parking lot of a restaurant. When you showed up ten minutes late due to a traffic jam, you met with your partner’s outrage. Let’s say, you did the right thing, did not get defensive and help the space sacredly for your partner’s outrage, letting him or her get it out.
You let your partner know that you understand that he or she is upset because you were late and rather than take the time to let him or her know that you might be late, you decided to focus your efforts on getting there as quickly and safely as possible.
You reinforce that you wouldn’t do anything to hurt or harm your partner, your heart is filled with love for him or her, and you would do anything to protect your partner and be there for him or her to the best of your ability.
Then, after a while, you might query, “Is there a time when you can remember in your life, in the past, when someone showed up late?”
You can see the rage start to build as your partner tells the story about how he or she was left to wait alone in the school parking lot, waiting for his or her father to pick her up after school. The father had forgotten and she waited alone, now in the dark, for four-and-a-half hours!
Bingo! You found the buried treasure!
Now that you and your partner recognize this, you can move through the process of your partner’s healing about this traumatic episode from his or her past.
You guys are a super team!
You have supported your partner and helped him or her face his or her demons face-forward and come out on the other side victorious! Nothing draws a couple closer together or engenders greater intimacy than that.
Kind’a makes you look forward to the next fight, ’eh?
Oh, by the way, in honor of the surface message, after apologizing for being late, you also agreed to call ahead if at all possible (more possible now, with cell phones) if you’re going to be late out of courtesy, love, and respect for your partner, which is something that his or her father never got to do.
Note: This example was a pretty direct conclusion to arrive at. In other circumstances, it could take a lot more investigative work on your part as you collect data from a past fear expressing itself repeatedly before you are able to properly detect it.