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Conflict

Wife vs Husband Does It Have To Be A Competition?

Most people enjoy succeeding or winning. But having to be right or constantly competing with your partner is detrimental to your relationship. Too frequently score keeping leads to hard feelings. It increases tension and fear and reduces trust. Choosing to relax and enjoy the journey together makes for a more harmonious home.

Couples compete on many points: who apologizes the most; who makes more money; who does more at home; who has the better job; who does more at the church or in the community; who is more involved with the kids; who has better friends. The possibilities are endless. Underneath it all the source of competition can be insecurity and the need for validation or approval from others. Some use being right or best as a way to get validation and boost their sense of self.

Does it have to be a competition? Consider the following questions:

  1. Do I have to have the last word? Do I have to prove that I am right?
  2. Am I gleeful when I can prove my partner wrong? Am I watching for ways that my partner missteps or stumbles so I can point it out?
  3. How am I inviting competition into our relationship? What could I say, do or think differently that might help?
  4. Do I express gratitude to and about my partner? Could I do this more often?

To stop the competition begins with you. You cannot control what your partner says or does, but you can start to make different choices for yourself.

  • Make the choice to cooperate rather than compete in your relationship. Recognize that when you both win your joy is doubled. If you have to win; you make it so your partner has to lose.
  • Learn to enjoy your partner’s accomplishments. Become each other’s best cheer section.
  • Try competing with yourself instead of with your partner. Perhaps you can find little ways that you can be better each day. Challenge yourself to find your personal best. Stop comparing yourself to your partner or to others.
  • Take responsibility for self-validation. Do not allow your self worth be determined by whether you are always right. Letting go of having to win all the time, may make your life more enjoyable.

If you want to stop competing as a couple start by making different choices yourself. You can then invite your partner to talk things through. Remember to listen twice as much as you talk. Consider ending the competition between you and look more toward becoming a team, cooperating as you win together.

Rebuilding Trust

Rebuild Trust

Trust builds naturally in the beginning of a relationship. But once that trust is broken, whether it is through lying or infidelity, it takes time and effort to rebuild. Too often partners who are conflict-avoidant will choose to lie to avoid upsetting their partner. The problem with this strategy for avoiding conflict is that it actually leads to more conflict down the road. The lies are eventually discovered and then mistrust is heaped on top of other feelings. Trust can be rebuilt if you are willing to invest time and energy in the process. There are some specific things that each of you can do to help move you toward a happy future together.

If you have broken trust:

  • Recognize that it will take time to rebuild the trust.
  • Accept that you must change your behavior to rebuild trust (stop lying or cut off contact with other man or woman).
  • Accept responsibility for your actions and make a heartfelt apology.
  • Be patient with your partner.
  • Avoid saying things like: “It is in the past,” or “Get over it already”.
  • Listen to your partner's hurt, anger and frustration.
  • Validate your partner's feelings.
  • Accept that your partner has reason to mistrust you and that you must be consistent in re-earning their trust.
  • Share your concerns about problems in the relationship, not as an excuse for your behavior, but to improve your relationship.
  • Focus on the postives in your relationship.
  • Choose to think about, speak to and behave lovingly toward your partner.

If your trust has been broken:

  • Recognize that it will take time to trust your partner again.
  • Express your anger and frustration is constructive ways—do not attack your partner physically or verbally.
  • Be patient with your partner
  • Do not blame yourself for your partner's behavior, they are 100% responsible for their choices
  • Examine your own contribution to relationship problems
  • Listen to your partner's concerns about problems in the relationship
  • Validate your partner's feelings
  • Share your concerns about problems in the relationship
  • Focus on the positives in your relationship
  • Choose to think about, speak to and behave lovingly toward your partner

Rebuilding trust can be extremely challenging. It can be difficult to break the cycle of hurting and anger. Seeking professional help may be beneficial.

Don't Avoid Tough Conversations

People often avoid tough conversations as a way to avoid conflict. The problem is that avoiding tough conversations simply lead to more conflict in the long run. You may momentarily avoid the unpleasant, but it will come back to bite you hard.

It is easiest for us to talk about things that happened in the past or that happened to someone else. It can be especially difficult to bring up a problem that has just occurred with the person who, in your view, has caused or contributed to the problem. It is so much more difficult to say Sherry, “I am upset with you right now.” than it is to say, “I was upset with you a few months ago.” It is also so much easier to talk about how either of you is upset with someone else. Hence the reason that many people talk about others rather than talking to them.

Even though it may be difficult, it is important for you to own your feelings and take responsibility for being honest with your partner. If you want to have a meaningful relationships, it is necessary to find your courage and have the tough conversations.

The following are some tips to help you make the most of difficult situations:

1. Remember that avoiding the problem just creates more problems. You are not keeping anyone happy, least of all yourself. 2. Honesty is the best policy. When you are not honest with your partner about what you have done or what you are feeling you create distance between the two of you. Accept responsibility for your part in the problem and for your thoughts and feelings. Avoid blaming. 3. Remember, all feedback is good. Even if you are not happy with your partner, it is better to be gentle and honest. You cannot solve problems that you do not acknowledge. Be willing to listen to your partner's side as well as sharing your own. 4. It is okay to agree to disagree. You do not have to convince your partner that you are right. Share how you feel and allow them to have their own opinions and feelings. You are looking for solutions, not victory. 5. Watch your timing. Trying to have a tough conversation when one or both of you is under time constraints or overtired will likely not end well. Setting up a time that is convenient for both of you will get the best results. 5. 6. Whenever possible have tough conversations in person, definitely not via text.

Respect Yourself: Improve Your Relationship

In counseling, we frequently hear concerns expressed about a lack of respect hurting relationships. Many people think that if their partner would just conform and do things the way they want them done, that they would then feel respected. Respect is an important foundation of any healthy relationship. But it begins with self-respect. Ask yourself, Am I easily offended? Do I justify my anger at my partner by thinking things like, if only s/he would change then I could be happy, feel respected, etc? The reality is that the better we feel about our self the less likely we are to be offended and angry at the behavior of others.

It is very empowering and freeing to NOT be dependent on the behavior of others to feel respected or loved. When our self-respect and self-esteem are high we are far less reactive to the behavior of others. When our self-respect and self-esteem are low and someone does something that we see as disrespectful we can feel a loss of control and respond with anger.

In the long run, it is our behavior, not our partner’s that determines how we feel about our self. The more we guard our integrity by making good choices, rather than choices of convenience or appearance, the better we will feel about our self. The better we feel about our self, the less likely we are to over react to our partner’s behavior. When we feel good about our self, we are more likely to be patient, understanding and generous with our partner.

Choices of appearance are those you make to make yourself look good or keep yourself out of trouble. Choices of convenience are based on what feels good in the moment, rather than on what you know is right or good. Whenever we make choices that go against our values, when we do what we believe to be wrong, we hurt our self-respect and self-esteem.

The greater our sense of self-respect, the less we will crave and demand respect from others. The more we are in control of our self, our behavior and feelings; the less we will feel the need to control and manage others.

Outgrow Problems

Carl Jung said, “Our most important problems cannot be solved; they must be outgrown.” In the sense that maturity makes problem solving much more successful, I agree that in order to solve many of our problems we have to grow up first.

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When it comes to many of our important issues increased maturity would go a long way in either resolving issues or learning to live in harmony in spite of differences. We first have to be able to accept responsibility for our own thoughts, words and actions and become aware of how we are contributing to the problem. We then need to be able to listen to our partner and be willing to put ourselves in his/her shoes. We need to be able to hang on to ourselves in the midst of strong emotions, control our temper and sooth our own hurt feelings. All of this requires growing up rather than simply growing older.

Maturity says, lets figure this out together so that it works for both of us. Immaturity says, my way is the right way and you had better agree or else. Maturity says, we disagree and that is okay, I can respect your opinions and hope you can respect mine. Immaturity says, I’m right and you are wrong and you should see things the way I do.

Maturity asks how can we fix the problem? Immaturity asks who is to blame? Maturity says, I appreciate hearing how you are feeling and hearing what would work better for you, thanks for the feedback. Immaturity, says how dare you criticize me when you are just as bad.

When you consider the immature and mature approach to problem solving, it is obvious that the mature approach is much more likely to lead to solutions or resolution. Interestingly, the resolution of our most important problems begins as an inside job. As we grow and mature within ourselves we will find our problems easier to deal with. We will have outgrown our problems.

Anniversary Blues

Have you ever had an Anniversary, Birthday or Mother’s Day be a huge disappointment?Anniversary My husband’s worst fopa in this regard was the year that he asked me to buy cards and presents for Secretary’s Day (which happens to fall shortly before my birthday) and then he forgot to even get a card for my birthday. That was years ago and it was the only time he “forgot” my birthday. Most of the pain resulting from important day disappointments comes from the meaning that we attach to what has or has not happened. In my case the meaning I attached to what happened was that my husband cared more about the secretaries than he did about me. In reality he had been bombarded with reminders of Secretary’s day from the secretaries and on the radio; there were no such reminders for my birthday. And although it should have been important to him make that day special for me, there was no mal intent on his part.

Things to consider: Have you set yourself up to be let down?

Instead of waiting and knowing that he will forget, choose to be proactive. Do what my daughter does and circle the day in red and write in a reminder. It may, in some distorted way, be satisfying to be proved right that he would forget, but what is the price of being right. Sometimes it is wiser to choose to be happy rather than right.

Do you have unrealistic expectations?

Are you expecting your partner to do something far beyond their inclination and ability? If for example you love to entertain and create fun parties, but your partner will not or cannot pull that off, then hoping that he is going to throw you that special big bash may only lead to disappointment. I know a woman who badly wanted a nice party for her 30th birthday, but she knew that her husband would not have time to plan it. Instead of being hurt and upset, she decided that she was going to have an absolutely wonderful birthday and planned the day herself with the help of her children. The result was that she had a great birthday because she was realistic about what she could expect.

Do you have secret or hidden expectations?

If there are certain things that you would really like, whether it is ideas for presents or activities or whatever, SHARE THEM with your partner. Some of you may think that if you have to ask then it doesn’t really count. Again the question: is it more important to hang on to a romantic notion that somehow he will figure it out or do you want to be happy? If you want to be surprised, give him several options to choose from; but the reality is that the more information that your partner has about your expectation, the more likely you are to get what you want.

When Your Partner Says Hurtful Things

In a perfect world partners would always be kind, considerate and thoughtful toward each other. The reality is that partners sometimes, due to stress, fatigue or down right meanness do not always treat each other with respect. What are you to do with the cheap shots from your partner or others?

There are three possible types of responses when someone verbally assaults you. 1. Withdraw 2. Counterattack 3. Stand your ground

Conflict

The first two responses only make matters worse. When you withdraw, you make yourself and easy target and it is only a matter of time before resentment will start to build. On the other hand if you counter attack things can get really ugly quickly.

Standing your ground involves first checking to see if you have misinterpreted what they said. Try saying something like, “Ouch, it sounds to me like you are saying that I am stupid. Is that what you are trying to say?” Or, “When you said _____, what are you trying to say?”

When you respect yourself by standing your ground, others will respect you as well.

However the best way to neutralize verbal attacks is to fortify the target. When you feel good about who you are, you will be far less affected by other’s comments. I ask, clients who are very distraught because their partner has said hurtful things to them, to think about how they would feel if their partner called them a purple dinosaur. Most of them respond that that would not bother them at all. I ask them to think about why that would not bother them. They say things like, “Well, it’s ridiculous.” Or “That’s just silly.”

The point is that it does not hurt because it is not true. There is not one little bit of them that on any level believes that they are a purple dinosaur. But often people, on some level, some part of them, do believe that they are stupid, ugly, a bad mother, or horrible person. Those beliefs create ready targets for verbal attacks.

Feeling good about yourself removes the ammunition from your partner’s arsenal. You need to hang onto yourself and give yourself the validation that you need, rather than depending on your partner to make you feel good about yourself.

Fighting Fair

It may seem like a contradiction to say that we should fight fair, but fighting dirty is a definite relationship killer. Unfortunately far too many couples resort to dirty tactics when their tempers flare. Although it may momentarily feel satisfying to win that battle, just remember that each time you destroy your partner in a fight you put your relationship at greater risk of failing. Here are some suggestions that can help you to solve disagreements in a positive way:

Be Respectful This is true at all times. Name calling, sarcasm or nasty teasing are never a good idea. If you slip and say something disrespectful apologize right away.

Validate Each Other's Thoughts and Feelings Saying things like, "It seems that you are really frustrated and I hear that you would like me to . . . " helps the other person to feel heard and understood. This can this means that one person talks at a time, rather than trying to outshout each other.

Make The Problem The Problem Visualize that it is the two of you against the problem. Try not to make each other the problem.

Tackle One Problem At A Time Don't get side tracked into bringing up all the past issues you can think of. Deal with the problem at hand.

Couple Arguing

Use "Time Outs" Wisely If you find that either partner's temper is getting hot, take a time out. If your partner requests a time out, honor that request. Use the time out to calm yourself down. Make sure that after the time out is over you finish dealing with the problem.

Listen to Understand This is probably one of the most important things that you can do to reduce conflict. Everyone wants to feel hear and understood. Giving that gift to your partner may make it easier for him/her to listen to you.

Deal With Needs Rather Than Positions Rather than taking a stand and sticking to it, try to identify the needs underneath your position. Try to find a way for both of you to get what you need, perhaps not exactly what you think you each want, but a way that works for both.

Communicate Clearly Don't play games, or beat around the bush. You cannot solve a problem if you cannot understand what the problem is.

Forgive and Accept Each Other Forgiveness and acceptance are incredibly healing. Be kind to each other.

Effective Problem Solving

Many couples find themselves having the same argument over and over, without ever resolving the issue. Frustrations and resentment builds. To break this pattern, it can be helpful to have a framework to follow. Here are step-by-step suggestions for for more effective problem solving:

1. Get on the same side of the table. Instead of thinking of each other as the problem, think of it as the two of you against the problem. You are a team, not opponents.

2. Choose a good time. Right before bed or when you have to leave for work is not a good time to tackle a problem. When either of you is tired, cranky or preoccupied with something else is also not optimal. Try problem solving when you are calm and have enough time to complete the process.

3. Stick to the problem. It works best to solve one problem at a time. Heaping a bunch of problems on top of the issue at hand is just confusing and frustrating. Generally nothing gets resolved when you try to deal with multiple problems at once.

4. Clarify the problem. Define the problem as clearly as you can from each of your perspectives. Take turns explaining how you see and feel about the problem. Talk when it is your turn. Otherwise listen to understand your partner's perspective.

5. Brainstorm for possible solutions. When brainstorming there is no judgment. All ideas are respected and accepted. Try to come up with several different options.

couple

6. Evaluate possible solutions. Here is where you sort through the ideas. Disregard any solutions that you both agree are completely unrealistic. If one of you likes a solution and the other does not, hang on to it. With each of the remaining solutions consider the following: a) advantages from his perspective b) advantages from her perspective c) disadvantages from his perspective d) disadvantages from her perspective Then each of you rate the desirability of each solution on a scale from 1 - 10, with 1 being undesirable and 10 being highly desirable.

7. Find a Win Win Solution. You can choose from among your solutions. You can get creative and combine or alter solutions until you find sometime that is acceptable to both. If you cannot find an alternative that satisfies both, don't give up. Consider that compromise is not a dirty word. Sometimes an attitude of, "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" can help you negotiate something workable.

8. Test Your Solution.Put your plan into action for a set period of time, a week or a month. After trying it out, get back together and evaluate how it worked. If it was successful, pat yourselves on the back and continue. If it was partially successful, you may want to tweak it a bit. If it has not worked, consider that you have learned some valuable information and start over at step one.

Handling Conflict

Conflict

Conflict is an inevitable part of even the best relationships.

Whether you call it fighting, disagreeing, or discussing, most relationship could benefit from less suppressed of feeling and more honest effort to resolve conflict. If you claim you have never had a conflict in your relationship, chances are one of you is not expressing their opinions or needs and will most likely end up resenting that position.

Conflict is not the problem; it is how you handle disagreements that can become the problem. When conflict escalates to a continued struggle or battle it becomes a problem. Disagreements are natural and healthy, and when handled properly they can strengthen rather than weaken your relationship. Your challenge is to face up to and resolve disagreements, rather than stuffing feelings and building walls. We like to encourage clients to build bridges rather than walls.

The following are principles that will allow you to resolve conflict in a fair and positive way:

Bite Your Tongue

Rather than allowing yourself to call your partner names, cut them with sarcasm, belittle them or in any way be disrespectful to them—bite your tongue. If harsh words pass your lips, apologize immediately. The words that you say in anger will be burned forever in your loved one’s mind; don’t say things that you will regret and can never erase.

Validate Your Partner’s Point of View

Validation does not mean agreement, but it is one of the fastest ways to take the heat out of a disagreement. When your partner feels heard and understood they don’t have to keep saying the same things over and over again. Say something like, “What I hear you saying is . . .. Have I understood you? Really try to understand what they are saying and keep the sarcasm out of your voice. Make the Problem the Problem

Work together to solve the problem, rather than attacking each other. Use "I" or "we" statements instead of "you" statements. Don’t take things too personally and stick to one problem at a time. Refuse to drag up the past to fling at your partner.

Don’t Compare

No one wants to hear how he/she should be more like their brother or sister. They also don’t want to hear how they are exactly like their mother or father. We don’t even want to be compared to our younger selves, such as your used to have hair or a great body.

Stick to the Topic

In order to resolve a conflict or issue it helps to deal with one issue at a time. Dumping all your unresolved conflicts on your partner at once, is like adding gas to a fire you are likely to create an explosion. If there are multiple issues pick one and deal with it.

Stay Calm and Use Time Outs if needed

Nobody's deaf, when you start to yell, you sham the door on any possibility of a compromise. If tempers are flaring and you find yourself losing control put the argument on "hold" or call a "time-out." It is important when deciding to take a time out to agree to meet back at a specific time when things have calmed down a little. During your time out try doing some physical activity like walking around the block or taking a shower to calm tempers.

Look for the Truth

Often in emotional fights, truth usually takes a back seat. Try not to have a “don’t confuse me with the facts” attitude, where you maintain your position no matter what. Try communicating the facts clearly. Don’t assume that you know what your partner is thinking or feeling. Always ask. Try to see things from their point of view, as if you were walking in their shoes and had their feelings and background. This doesn’t mean you agree, just that you want to understand.

Be Solution Oriented

Work together to solve the “problem.” Don’t drag in family or friends to gang up on the other person. Try out this phrase, "What can we do together to solve this problem? I am willing to do the following…" Then state what you are willing to do and then do it.

Forgive and accept each other

It is always a good idea to keep in mind that this is someone that you love and care about. Your relationship is more important that your differences. Acceptance and forgiveness are what strengthen rather than weaken your relationship. When you can accept and love each other despite your differences your bond grows stronger. When the argument is over, do something healing, such as hug or say, “ I love you."