Conflict is complicated. Whether with our partners, children, bosses, or important others… we all struggle with how to engage in conflict to some degree. Some of us would love to just plain avoid all conflict, while others run, without caution, toward it. Conflict handled well, though, is different than staying away from, or running full blast into the issues. In reality, conflict that goes underground or is handled poorly leads to distance or, in some cases, to the end of the relationship. Conflict managed well, however, leads to significantly more intimate relationships. This means that, unfortunately, intimacy is always the cost of avoiding conflict in the interest of peace, or moving toward conflict poorly in the interest of just getting through it.
Intellectually, this makes sense. Conflict for most couples, though, seems difficult at best and is often quite complicated. This is why we made the decision to explore conflict and intimacy in our new book Relationship Renewal: A Workbook for Turning Conflict into Intimacy (book 2 of the Relationship Renewal Series). We work to provide a series of practical suggestions for couples on how to handle conflict so that they can work toward a more intimate relationship.
Borrowing from that book, there are 4 important principles for handling conflict in relationship that you can begin playing with today:
- Start conflict “soft”, as opposed to waiting until you are completely frustrated and then unloading.
- Take time outs if you feel like things are escalating too much.
- Try to stay on one topic, rather then piling on other unresolved conflicts.
- Avoid getting into conflict late at night, or after you have consumed alcohol.
In the end, there is no right way to handle conflict. Each couple must negotiate their own style, but the style must be intentional and productive to allow for intimacy. Learning to process conflict effectively is one of the best investments you can make in your relationship. If you would like to learn more, please find our book on amazon.com, or in one of our offices. You can also set up an appointment with a therapist to aid in shifting your conflict patterns that are feeling stuck, and increasing your couple intimacy.