Tuesday, February 7, 2012
A Few Thoughts on Conflict
If you’re someone who pushes away your partner whenever you are suffering, odds are that don’t have much trust in the relationship. And if you are someone who doesn’t give any space, who thinks that any “alone time” during a period of struggle is a problem, then odds are that you probably don't trust the relationship.
The key to dealing with challenges in any relationship is balance. You have to learn to give your partner enough space and time to process. And/or cool down if he or she is really upset and can't handle a conversation right now. You also have to learn how to re-engage, and not simply hide out until things "blow over." Because more often then not, something that goes unaddressed will return later, sometimes in a much stronger, more difficult way.
It's very much the case that I am one of those guys who needs time and space to process difficulties. Not to say I can't handle conflict in the moment, but more that for bigger issues, I tend to be slower to understand what it is that's going on with myself. As a student of meditation, yoga, and other spiritual disciplines, I naturally gravitate towards being alone with myself during difficult times, and then later talking things out and making decisions with the help of friends, family, and my partner, if I'm with someone.
This kind of approach hasn't always gone over well with the women I have been with. At least one long term girlfriend wanted to hash it all out right away, even if it got really messy and confusing. Now, there's nothing wrong with messy. Sometimes, it's absolutely the best idea to hash things out in the here and now. However, when things devolve into yelling, insults, and wildly off accusations, I think a different approach is called for.
One thing I have learned through all of this is how to be more vocal about what I need during such times. And yet, when I'm feeling weakened by something difficult going on in life, it's just not as easy to muster up the energy to say "I really would like this from you." Or "Could you not do that?" So, it's good to practice doing this kind of thing when you feel good, and when you're partner is doing also doing well.
In the end, the real balance point in a relationship is finding a way to honor your partner's natural way of coping, while also doing the same for your own. Sometimes, you have to adapt a bit, moving towards how your partner does something. Other times, it's your partner who moves towards your way.
This is the dance of a healthy relationship. Conflict is, if handled well, an opportunity for each person to grow.