Your Tango Conflicts by Dr. Karen Sherman
Life’s a journey that includes challenges and, therefore, you can expect to make mistakes along the way. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with making a mistake, as long as you take the time to learn how you could have done things differently.
In a recent article written for Time.com, couples who were divorced offered lessons about what it takes to have a solid marriage. Relationships are tough; the truth is that it takes a whole lot more than love to make them successful. They take that nasty four-letter word: work.
Among the suggestions offered was learning how to manage conflicts. It’s unfortunate that this is an area that couples don’t get right the first time around because it’s SO important. A leading researcher has shown that with 85% accuracy, he could predict within 15 minutes which couples would divorce simply by watching how they handled conflicts!
The good news is that this is one mistake you can avoid. You don’t have to be a statistic and you don’t have to have a relationship do-over.
You took the time to learn the skills of whatever career you’re in. You’ve learned the technique of driving. You paid attention to the tips on a variety of appropriate behaviors. Well, you can also learn the tools to managing a conflict. When you do, you have a much more successful relationship and you actually are more intimate!
Since you can’t make change without awareness, the very first awareness is this: not only is it normal to have conflicts, but having conflicts with each other means you feel safe with each other. When couples tell me they never fight, it’s a “red flag” to me. After all, what’s the likelihood that two different people will never have a difference in the way they see the world? The trick, of course, is how you manage that difference.
To get you started, here are 5 tools:
- Don’t attack: When you want to bring something to your partner’s attention, discuss it from your point of view. If you blame it on your mate, he or she is going to the natural thing of either shutting down or shouting back. Both of these reactions make sense when you realize that a person who feels attacked will go in to “defend mode.”
- No name calling: This is a form of attacking. Though there are obvious negative terms you can call your mate, you might not realize that there are indirect ways of name calling that many don’t realize also fall into this category. For example, accusing your mate of being lazy or sloppy are very harmful.
- Don’t shut down: Try to not just totally shut down. This is often something that men do as a way of being self-protective because they’re really feeling so much. Or, other men state that it’s easier to say nothing than to risk saying the wrong thing. However, silence, in this case, isn’t golden. Even a statement of “not knowing what to say” still helps your mate know you’re involved.
- Stay to the subject: Whatever it is that the two of you are discussing is what you should focus on. Don’t bring up other things as these will derail what’s going on and make it hard to resolve the point you’re on.
- Don’t generalize: Again, stay to the particular situation being discussed. Shy away from words like, “always” and “never.” In reality, very few situations fit into those categories. When you use those words, it takes away from your point.
Are there more tools? Sure! Starting with these five, however, will be a great beginning. Additionally, there are also tools that can help you repair from your conflicts after they’ve occurred so that you get back on track in a loving way. There are even things you can learn so that you’ve got a better way to deal with your emotions. Knowing how important all of this is to a good relationship, I created a program that goes through all of this that you might want to check out. You can find out more at my site.
Different therapists have a variety of skills to offer. One skill that there would be no conflict on, however, is the importance of managing your conflicts to have a solid, loving relationship. Now you can!
About Dr. Karen Sherman:
Dr. Karen Sherman is a licensed psychologist in New York who has been in private practice for over 25 years focusing on relationships/marriage and helping people achieve their greatest potential. She is the author of “Mindfulness and The Art of Choice: Transform Your Life” which enables people to let go of conditioned responses and make their own choices. She co-authored “Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make It Last,” and contributed a chapter on overcoming stress to “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life, Vol. 2.” She also hosts Your Empowered Relationship radio show, is an expert writer for YourTango.com, does podcasts for Hitchedmag.com, is a frequent guest on national radio and her expert opinion appears in numerous publications. Karen offers workshops, teleseminars and speaking engagements. She has been featured on Yahoo Personals, a relationship blogger for ThirdAge.com, the relationships expert on the “Bo Griffin Morning Show,” and a marriage expert on ClubMom.com. Dr. Sherman is a member of American Psychological Association, American Counseling Association, Nassau County Psychological Association. She’s certified as a Nationally Board Certified Counselor and a National Family Life Educator and belongs to The National Registry for Marriage Friendly Therapists. She serves on the undergraduate Psychology Dept. at CW Post University. Visit her web site www.DrKarenSherman.com for a free newsletter and programs. She and her husband of 30+ years have two daughters, two sons-in-law, and grandkids.