Loving in Conflict. Truth is arguments don’t have to mean the ‘end of the world’. Conflicts increase understanding and relational closeness, they can be a healthy part of any relationship. Not to mention that the resolution of this tension can lead to make up sex.
On the other hand, name calling and bringing up issues from the past during arguments could drive a deeper wedge between you and your partner.
Expressing love, compassion and respect during the conflict can help you feel connected to your partner. This can be done by engaging in active listening, empathizing with your partner, admitting your mistakes, engaging in physical touch and coming back to the discussion later to address any unresolved issues.
Here are my tips for loving in conflict:
One of the most difficult things to do when you’re hurting is actively listen to someone whom you feel is responsible for your hurt. This is why I consider listening heroic.
To be clear, listening does not mean waiting on your partner to finish talking while you plan your rebuttal. Nor is it thinking of all the reasons why their stance is wrong.
Active listening involves providing your undivided attention to the thoughts and feelings your partner is communicating. When we our willing to listen in silence to our partner we communicate that we are invested in his/her thoughts and feelings. Often being listened to is enough to reduce physical tension and emotional frustration.
2. Show Empathy
Now is your time to show that you understand how your partner feels. Think of empathy as the opposite of judgment, the more you understand your partner’s point of view, the deeper your compassion for them.
According to Psychiatrist Jean Baker Miller the ability to give and receive empathy is the essential ingredient for healthy relationships. As a result of mutual empathy each person feels greater vitality, higher self-worth and more connected.
Do you want to be right or do you want to be loved? Admitting when you’re wrong or apologizing for hurtful actions strengthens connections.
Do not say sorry just to end an argument, you’ll only make things worse or create further misunderstanding. But if you believe you are at fault, acknowledging your role in the disconnection is a powerful testimony of your respect for your partner.
Doing so shows that you care about the impact your behavior has on your partner. This can also be contagious, inspiring your partner to admit his/her mistakes.
I remember one heated argument I was having with my then partner several years ago. Just as things were escalating she put her hand in mine. Immediately I felt more physically relaxed and at ease.
We held hands until long after the conflict had ended. And even though we continued to argue, the tone of the discussion became calm and conciliatory. This is the healing power of touch.
Touch is a powerful communicator of love. Prolonged touching conveys closeness and togetherness. Touch is also physically healing, reducing stress, blood pressure and anxiety. Physical touch may be the most direct way of communicating love to your partner.
Don’t wait until after a disagreement to engage in physical affection. Touch during an argument can convey reassurance and warmth which increase emotional connection.
Something as simple as hand holding, or briefly touching the shoulder or arm of your partner can be an important way of communicating love.
So, you’re coming off a recent argument and things went from bad to worse. You realize you acted stupidly and feel concerned about the longevity of the relationship. You talked when you should’ve listened or allowed your stubborn streak to interfere with your desire to love.
Now is the time to be brave and reach out to your partner and share your revelations. Revisiting the conflict and being honest about your feelings can be healing for a relationship.
Just because the argument has passed does not mean it’s too late to communicate feelings of regret or sorrow.
Don’t allow your stubborn streak or irrational fears to get in the way of something good. Never pass up a chance to express love, let your partner know you still care.
Showing the compassion, respect and love we have for our loved ones does not have to stop during a conflict. Putting up walls and hiding behind our insecurities can cause distance and disconnection in relationships. On the other hand, closeness and togetherness are strengthened when we choose to listen, empathize, apologize, express affection and reveal a willingness to resolve past issues.
Dr. Bill Johnson II is a Psychologist and author of “Intimate Partner Violence: A Culturally Competent Approach to Clinical Training and Treatment”. He writes about domestic violence, racism, mental health and the the impact of traditional masculinities on men and boys.
“Dr. Bill” is dedicated to becoming a more compassionate, loving, and forgiving human being. In his spare time he is working on his dance moves!