There is no doubt that this year has had a great impact on many of our relationships due to big shifts in daily patterns, stress from coping with the unknown and much more. How can we navigate these twists and turns with more ease? Are there ways to resolve conflict with grace? How can we show our partners that we really care? Learn valuable insight on ways to navigate conflict and deepen intimate connection from relationship coach and holistic body therapist Maya Vaughan.
Has lockdown really created more conflict in our relationships?
Relationships are hard. In any real love relationship, conflict and tensions exist because there are two people in the equation with different needs and different inner worlds, unless you are in a polyamorous relationship, of course.
Without conflict we do not butt up against these differences and learn about our partners raw edges, trigger points and general world views. Without conflict we are either in denial or we are floating around in an unrealistic bubble of seeming harmony. We call this, the romantic phase – the place where we create the illusion that we are one entity and that there are no obstacles in sight for our romance. This stage has less to do with real love than the subsequent phase – the power struggle phase. It is then that conflict starts to show its face, and we can begin the process of really getting to know one another. Without it we are not tested, we are not required to dig deep and learn how to deal with the tensions between us constructively.
I choose to see lockdown as synonymous with the power struggle phase in that it has brought tensions to the surface that were simmering or brought onto the stage difficulties that were waiting in the wings. Far from creating conflict in our relationships, lockdown has brought them to light and reminded us that we can choose to let conflict take over or we can choose to grow and learn from it. It has forced us to prioritise the most important of human relationships – the intimate one.
People are realising they can no longer run and hide, shut down or float in a bubble of denial. They have to work it out.
They have to acknowledge the myriad ways in which we resist and hurt each other and get creative about expressing our differences in ways that stop resentment from taking over our hearts. This way we can weather the storm together when it comes. So, how do we do this?
The conflict myth
We first need to first reject the myth that tussles and struggles are a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Disagreements and difficulties are a crucial step in forging a real loving relationship – one that requires daily work. Armed with this knowledge, we can make sure that we don’t throw the towel in at the first sign of a disagreement but instead use the discomfort as a catalyst to explore ways to build bridges. The more connected we are to our partners the better we are able to resolve conflict when it arises and arise it will.
So, how do we get more connected to our partners?
A good way to start is to train ourselves to notice the good traits in our partners. The default for many of us and the key precursor to divorce according to relationship scientist Dr. John Gottman, is our endless capacity to scan our partners for where they are going wrong.
As we start to change this habit and strive to look for the good in our partners, we notice the little resentments around our heart melt. Just the act of scanning our partner positively loops back to us and makes us feel warmer towards them and softer inside. And when we begin to share the results of our findings with our partners, it gets better. They feel appreciated, seen and acknowledged. And the good news is, the more we do it the easier it becomes, especially when we can see the bridge taking shape.
Here are some specific ways you can make your partner feel appreciated:
- Try finding two or three good traits in your partner every day and don’t keep them to yourself, share your findings with them.
- Write down your findings every day in a journal or on slips of paper and leave them somewhere you know they will find it.
- Be specific in your missives. Let them know how their positive actions make you feel. You may say, “Honey, you may think I don’t notice that you take the rubbish out every day when you come in but I do. And I want you to know I really appreciate it. It makes me feel like I can depend on you and that is a big deal to me”.
- Get creative. Make showering your partner with good vibes a project or a daily ritual and watch how they soften.
- Schedule something fun you can do together that builds that bridge. Don’t use the time to raise issues in the relationship, just have fun.
When you are feeling sufficiently connected to your partner, that is a good time to bring up difficult issue. If you do it when the bridge is still shaky it usually back fires.
Give it a go and let me know how it goes. I would love to hear from you: email@example.com
Maya Vaughan has been working with clients for over 20 years. Whether she’s coaching you on ways to reconnect with your partner and transform conflict into compassion and mutual understanding or is laying her hands on you to release tension, realign and restore balance, she draws on her deep intuition as well as her extensive knowledge and clinical experience.