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Conflict in Relationships: Why Does It Have to Be So Hard?

When I coach couples, something that I hear a lot is how hard conflict is. They wonder why their relationship or marriage isn't easier or more fun. Or they ask if they are just falling out of love.

Do you find yourself in small rifts with your partner every day or big, blowout fights regularly? You're not alone. Couples struggle with conflict in relationships and recurring arguments are more common than you might think.

What can you do when your love relationship meant to replenish and support you, exhausts and depletes you instead?

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

A man and woman walking into the sun holding hands: to be close or in conflict??Many disagreements can stem from our differences as individuals. Every person is unique. Everyone lives in their own private universe. Each has different thoughts, feelings, behaviors, desires, beliefs, experiences, and perceptions.
Our accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses, interests and passions, personalities and temperaments all vary.

So why are we surprised or dismayed when there is conflict?

Relationship Conflict—and a New Perspective

Relationships can be very messy. No doubt about it. Power struggles or subtle putdowns can greatly diminish the quality of a partnership or marriage unless you discover how to handle differences supportively.

Conflict is a natural part of life; what is unnatural is our response to conflict.

Many times our response to conflict is to try to change our partner to fit our own viewpoints and set of values.

We love being right, don't we?

Is it possible that it is this pressure (and not our differences) that creates the conflict?

Perhaps if we tried to explore, understand, and honor our partner's differences as bullheadedly as we try to prove ourselves right or alter their behavior and habits, there would be very little conflict.

Let's face it, it's impossible to change anyone but ourselves.

One of our most important jobs in any relationship is to build a bridge between two very different universes so that love can flow and expand every day.

Every moment is a choice to love.

Every moment is a choice to love

Yes, love is a choice. Love is an action. What would happen if we sought to support our partner and encourage them to grow and reach their full potential as much as we obsessed and complained about their faults? A major key in relationships is to focus on the positive and highlight all the good and kind things they do instead of nagging—subtly or overtly—about their idiosyncrasies that annoy us.

Deep Dive:  "The Stop, Drop, and Roll of Successful Communication in Relationships."

Love the One You're With

There's a song by songwriter, Stephen Stills, to "love the one you're with" and a second similar lyrics by Shania Twain to "dance with the one that brought you."

The message in both songs is clear. Love the one you're with in the moment whether you're committed or just dancing. And when you doubt the relationship because it's getting hard, roll up your sleeves.

Relationship requires us to choose each other daily, to recommit our love every day. Below are some of the secrets I've learned through working with hundreds of couples and a happy marriage of decades.

Love and Communication: Simple Secrets to  Understanding Your Partner

Typically, when we are in strife, our attention in the wrong place: our partner's shortcomings or what's missing in the relationship. Nothing cools love quicker than a negative focus or complaining

To shift your attention, ask yourself the right questions that lead you back to love. By taking a minute to reassess and shift your emotions, you will understand your partner better and gain appreciation for their differences. The key is remembering what is truly important to you.

Key #1 to connect instead of fight.
When you hear yourself saying, "Why can't she/he ...," stop yourself, and ask what it is that you want.

Chances are what you want (maybe a tidier or more motivated partner or a more frugal partner for greater financial security) fades in the light of the relationship you cherish and the love you have for your partner. Take a moment to shift and put things in perspective.

For example, if you're frustrated that your partner isn't finishing those projects around the house, get in touch with how supportive they are of your goals. If you think they're work too much, bring to mind the great lifestyle you have as a result of their hard work and contribution. This small shift of your attention and increased gratitude can totally transform your mood.

Key #2 to shift from conflict to closeness in your relationship.
When you begin to argue with your partner, stop to ask yourself, "Do I want to be RIGHT or do I want to be CLOSE?"

You can't have both. No one likes being wrong, but we often are so locked into what we want or believe that we forget to listen and seek to understand our partner's perspective, needs, and desires.

Take a moment to open to the conflict. Recognize that each of us needs to build bridges with one another, especially in love and marriage.

Key #3 Seek to understand and build bridges.

When you get frustrated because your partner doesn't do what you expected, ask yourself, "Did we really have an agreement?"

Many times, we assume we have agreement when we don't. A common misstep of couples is ignoring the lackluster of their partner's response.

Were they actually listening or were they preoccupied with another activity? Did you ask them as they were going out the door in the morning or late at night when they're tired? Did you pressure them to go along with what you wanted?

It's possible that your expectations are setting you up to be disappointed. Expectations are often hidden. Let your expectations go or get them out in the open and see if your partner is on board. Have an open dialogue and gain a greater understanding of what is important to both of you.

Key #4 From conflict to closeness in a love relationship.
When you feel misunderstood and start doubting how much your partner really cares about you, ask yourself, "Is this true?

Our mind likes to tell stories and often feeds us false information unless we keep it in check. If you're feeling like they don't care, shift your attention to all the ways they DO care for you (trust me, there will be many.) We find whatever we look for!

Ask yourself, "What are the ways he or she shows me they care that I may be missing?" Find those caring ways and keep them securely in the foreground of your mind. (No one "always" or "never" does anything!)

Key #5 Turn complaints to actions for greater closeness.
Turn angry complaints into actions for closeness.

When you're angry because your partner seems more plugged into Facebook, the TV, or their iPad than being with you, ask yourself, "Have I been ignoring him or her lately?" If so, decide that's it time to carve out some special time together. Plan it and invest in each other.

Many times when we are bothered by the behavior of our partner, we have a responsibility to give the VERY thing that we want from our partner. Make sure you are being a match for the love you want!

Related reading: Relationship Tips: How to Handle Differences for a Successful Relationship

Couple cycling together on a bike pathLove doesn't just happen. Love needs to be nurtured daily.

So next time your relationship seems hard, dig deep, then identify and recall what's really important to you.

Seek to understand rather than change the person you love.

Resolve conflicts until there's understanding, (especially reoccurring ones), honor your partner's differences, and find how the gifts of their unique qualities strengthen your relationship. Lastly, explore what their traits can teach you.

Then relationships blossom, and every conflict becomes just one more opportunity for understanding and closeness.

Every moment is a choice to love.

And if you'd like personalized support, reach out to Heartmanity today. Transforming relationships is our business!

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Jennifer A. Williams / Heartmanity FounderJennifer A. Williams / Heartmanity Founder
Jennifer, as the Heartmanity Founder, has coached couples for over two decades. With her extensive experience and vast knowledge of emotional intelligence and brain science, Jennifer provides profound insights. She specializes in communication and teaches EQ skills needed to create healthy relationships. Jennifer is happily married and the mother of three grown children who are incredible human beings.

Posted in Love, Marriage, and Relationships

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