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Conflict absolutely makes or breaks your relationship. How we fight makes a HUGE difference. In this episode I talk about what …
Transcript

all right today it is my goal to drastically change the way that you’re fighting in your relationships we are going to punch conflict right in the face no no we’re not going to do that but what we are going to do is learn how to resolve conflict in a safe healthy way because if you don’t I hate to break it to you but it’s going to cost you your relationship even if you stay together without communication skills without conflict resolution skills your relationship dies you end up feeling disconnected you feel like roommates it happens every day that’s just where that path leads trust me I would know and all joking a I had to learn this far too late in my marriage and it’s my goal to do anything I can to help steer you in a different direction my goal is to actually give you what you want from your relationship most of you want to feel close to your partner most of you want to feel desired by them most of you want to feel respected and valued and loved right we want companionship with this person that’s why we started this relationship with them but here’s the problem without communication without conflict resolution skills without developing any skills of empathy or listening or safety during a conflict you have no chance at achieving those goals I don’t care what your intentions are I don’t care what your hopes and dreams are I only care about your behaviors I care about your patterns I care about your mindsets because I can tell you everything to know about where you’re going to end up based off where you are now and as Emily and I were in counseling together because our marriage was on the brink of collapse because of my own terrible choices the more we learned about what a healthy safe connected relationship looks like we both came to the realization that we had mutually unintentionally destroyed our relationship because of how we were handling Conflict for years and at some point we admitted and agreed that the only way that we’re going to get ourselves out of this hole is if we start over completely from a communication and fighting standpoint that meant completely dismantling our natural defaults and patterns not only were they not working they were hurting us it meant changing how we viewed conflict the false narratives we had created around it the fears we had surrounding it that we didn’t even know about and how we were resolving and repairing it because for us it never LED anywhere healthy it only led to worsening distance and disconnection so what does all that have to do with you well if you’re watching this my job is to give you the warning I never got this is the opportunity to start over don’t wait for a crisis in your relationship or marriage to address this issue Don’t Wait For An Affair to blow up your marriage don’t wait until you’re either divorced or simply miserable together to work on this because it’s fixable it’s manageable it’s possible ble to get the closeness and connection that you want but like anything important in life it takes work and effort and collaboration from both of you and I want you both to do something that we never did that would have saved us from a lot of distance and disconnection I want you to sit down together and be able to have a mature kind respectful talk where you both decide beforehand how you’re going to handle conflict talk about what you get right talk about how you think people should bring up conflict talk about any boundaries you have around name calling or yelling talk about what you personally could improve upon in those areas and if you can’t do that because it just turns into another fight I would beg you to get in front of a professional because your relationship depends on it but if you are both willing to do this let’s start by answering a basic question should your partner be allowed to complain should they be allowed to bring up a concern or a hurt or a desire and feel heard and understood do you truly care about their feelings and be careful if the answer is yes because that’s a danger dangerous answer that demands something from you it demands that you not punish them when they do just that because I can promise you you’re not going to like it when they actually come to you with a negative emotion you’re not going to like it when they have a hurt that you unintentionally caused are you prepared for what you’re going to do in that moment because I wasn’t and I believe the success of our relationship hangs in those moments it’s those moments where we have the largest opportunity to repair any disconnection and reestablish closeness and reassure our partner that we care or we have the option to teach them even if it’s unintentionally you can’t rely on me when you’re hurt don’t come to me looking for safety or security or understanding when you’re in pain because I won’t be there for you if I’ve learned anything from Sue Johnson it’s that underneath most conflicts one person is always asking does my partner actually care can I rely on them to actually care and move in my direction when I’m hurt or scared or even angry can I truly trust them and it’s our job during every conflict to remind them yes you can rely on me your feelings matter to me I’m not going to punish you for being vulnerable you’re more important than any fight that we have now how do we do that in John Gray’s Book Men Are from Mars Women Are from Venus he gives us this answer he says the biggest problem in relationship is this a woman shares her upset feelings and as a result a man feels unloved to him her negative feelings sound like criticism blame or resentment and when he becomes defensive or attacks her or dismisses her feelings she feels unloved the success of her relationship is solely dependent on two factors a man’s ability to listen lovingly and respectfully to a woman’s feelings and a woman’s ability to share her feelings in a loving and respectful way a relationship requires that Partners communicate their changing feelings and needs so let me ask you how many of you would say that perfectly describes your situation how many of us are stuck in that Dynamic cuz I bet it’s a lot of us and don’t get hung up on the genders we could replace men and women for partner and it’s still completely accurate one person can’t bring something up without the other person and becoming defensive or dismissing their concerns which only leads them to feeling unheard and alone right and from the other person’s point of view they feel like they can’t get anything right and their partner is always trying to criticize them and complain about what they’re messing up on and they both missing each other just like we missed each other and yet John gry reminds us a relationship requires that we communicate changing feelings and needs it’s not optional it’s essential and I want you to keep that quote in the back of your mind as we talk about every aspect on how to handle conflict and so when Emily and I were rebuilding our marriage we came to an agreement the same agreement I want you to come to with your partner it went something like this I want to be a safe place for you if you feel hurt if you feel disrespected if you feel neglected I want to know your feelings aren’t a burden to me they’re real and they are important I want to keep short accounts in this relationship I don’t want either of us building up presentment or avoiding conflict out of fear of the other person’s reaction or because they just want to keep the peace we know that doesn’t work and if one of us is bringing up a hurt or a concern let’s both hold each other accountable to doing it respectfully and vulnerably without criticism or passive aggressiveness or blame and let’s receive any complaints without getting defensive or invalidating or dismissing the other person’s feelings so here’s the question will you both agree to that as well this is not about perfection this is about Direction and intention because I still mess up but I’m open to her lovingly calling me out I take accountability personally and relationally I apologize for my part I’m not saying apologize for things you didn’t do I apologize for what role I believe I caused and I validate how my actions could have affected her and I ask her what she needs from me in this moment to repair and that makes all the difference you get two people who actually want to do those things you can move mountains in your relationship most of our relationship issues are because at least one person refuses to do that isn’t it now for some of you especially Men You’re terrified that if you actually gave your partner the green light to complain that they would use it against you right they would take that and run with it and constantly be telling you what you’re doing wrong and I think that’s important to note because what that means is that you don’t trust your partner like on a fundamental level you don’t trust them not to hurt you and that’s a really big deal because I don’t think we can have safety and intimacy and respect in a relationship when one person doesn’t feel safe to express their feelings without being punished or if someone feels like they have to walk on eggshells because they’re constantly criticized or attacked right if either one of those is you you need to be talking to a professional about that and if you’re dating someone and you don’t have kids with them and they won’t see a counselor with you I would seriously consider ending that relationship because you know you deserve better than that I am certainly not advocating that we create a culture of complaining where we are very negative and critical and we use our partner as a punching bag for us to vent out all of our grievances all the time that person is generally insecure unhappy inconsiderate and will never succeed in their relationships or life in general of course we should be picking our battles and using discernment when it comes to when and how and what should be brought up but I’m also not advocating that we sweep important things under the rug and avoid conflict just because we’re scared of how our partner will react or because we’re just scared of being vulnerable in general so we keep everything inside those are both opposite ends of an unhealthy spectrum and they don’t lead to the relationship that you ultimately want so Emily and I agreed we wanted to trust each other we wanted to be a safe place for each other those weren’t true before so in order to build that it requires things from us just like it will you it’s not a passive outcome it means truly starting over truly challenging our defaults and holding ourselves accountable it meant being intentional and learning how to be vulnerable and self-reflective possibly for the first time it meant learning what respect and honor actually look like during a conflict it meant doing some things a new way that might be uncomfortable or inconvenient it meant realizing that love isn’t enough you can love this person to the Moon in back but if you Gaslight them and dismiss them and call them names during a conflict you’re killing that relationship because safe mutually fulfilling relationships are not for prideful or self-centered or lazy people they always require work okay so let’s get down to some practical advice for the person bringing up a complaint or a hurt remember we’re trying to do that from a respect respectful kind vulnerable way where we take ownership of our own feelings and talk about the facts of the current case not blasting them with 12 things that we’re mad about from the past month that could sound something like this hey can I talk to you about something we start that way because we’re showing them right off the bat that we care about their state of mind if they don’t have the mental or emotional capacity to talk right now that’s perfectly fine however it is up to them now to Circle back and reschedule if they don’t want to talk now because when you don’t when you brush it aside and act like it’s not that important to you you’re not being considered of your partner and their mental state okay but let’s assume they are available to talk you would continue by saying I know you’ve been really busy at work and I appreciate how hard you’re working I realize you’re not doing this intentionally but I’ve been feeling pretty neglected lately I’ve really missed us you used to hug me before work you used to kiss me good night and now it just feels like you’re on your laptop so much that you don’t even have time to talk to me anymore and I’ve been feeling abandoned and rejected notice how there was no criticism no blame no contempt no name calling or yelling we gave them the benefit of the doubt we acted like they at least weren’t doing this intentionally and we just were sharing how we were feeling and we acted like they actually cared we didn’t say you’re a selfish narcissist who only thinks about themselves and we also didn’t say you’re neglecting and rejecting me now why is that important because it’s subjective it’s arguable and it puts most people on the defensive it would me at least they will immediately say I’m not neglecting you but it’s much harder to argue with someone who says well I feel neglected now people still argue I mean that’s called invalidation and it destroys relationships because when someone tells you that you don’t have the right to feel something it’s less likely that you’re going to trust that person or feel safe around them in the future isn’t it because the truth is it’s actually courageous when someone shares their feelings with us in a vulnerable way and we should never punish that at the end of the day conflict is not bad conflict is unavoidable you will have conflict in your relationships either externally or internally conflict itself isn’t bad but when we avoid it or when we do it wrong it will be detrimental to the relationship because the goals are safety and trust and honesty and mutual respect and a partnership where we actually care about each other’s experience right if those aren’t your goals then your relationship is always going to flounder and we can still achieve those goals even during conflict because if we do it right conflict can actually be something that draws us closer together instead of tearing us apart because that’s the natural state of your relationship to drift away from each other you have work and kids and life and aging parents and stress and our own trauma and baggage how do you think all that is going to impact your relationship you think it’s going to have a neutral effect on things no it’s our job to be proactive it’s our job to check in and keep short accounts it’s our job to create a climate of safety it’s our job to intentionally prioritize our partner and love them in the ways that they feel it most it’s our job to listen for the hurt underneath the frustration and the unmet needs underneath the complaints because at the end of the day we chose to love them don’t tell me you love your partner but you refuse to do these things because this is how love is demonstrated okay so what do we need to change well Dr John Gutman did a study of thousands of couples and he was able to predict which ones would divorce with 90% accuracy based on The Chronic presence of four behaviors during conflict defensiveness criticism contempt and stonewalling now we can all be guilty of these some of the time but just because that’s true it doesn’t make them any less corrosive to our relationship marriage experts agree these are destructive and they should be avoided they are like poison within our relationship and that means if we want to protect our closeness together we should be on high alert for them the problem is we don’t usually see these in the mirror this is where self-reflection comes in because most of us have the type of relationship that if your partner came to you and said hey sometimes during a conflict you get defensive we would immediately say no I don’t does anyone else see a problem with that because two things might be happening when you get defensive Maybe they are unfairly attacking you maybe they’re calling you names accusing you of things that you didn’t do and of course it’s natural to want to defend yourself but if someone is calling you names you probably shouldn’t be continuing in that argument anyways right but the other thing that might be happening is we’re coming into this situation or argument with some wounding from our past maybe some unhealed trauma that we’re not even aware of and what we don’t realize is because of that wound even if someone was calm and respectful you would still interpret any negative emotion that they had as an attack which means that you will Counterattack and defend and argue and dismiss why why would we do something like that that clearly pushes our partner away instead of Comforts them when they’re in pain because you were conditioned as a child to protect yourself you couldn’t trust that other people actually care about your feelings and needs and there’s a part of you that’s still stuck in that fear and shame feelings of unworthiness feelings of fear that you won’t be loved if they knew the real you and that you’re going to be abandoned and so often we can’t separate identity from behavior when someone says that we hurt them unintentionally what we hear is them saying you’re a bad partner and I’m going to abandon you so we fight back we defend ourselves we minimize their feelings because we’re fighting against the idea that we’re bad that’s the story that we’re telling ourselves the only problem is they didn’t say we were bad they didn’t say they wanted to leave us or at least they shouldn’t be saying that all they said was we accidentally hurt them and when we dismiss or invalidate their feelings when we refuse to take any accountability and we defend defend defend it doesn’t protect the closeness it kills it now do they have a role in not criticizing us or being contemptuous towards us during an argument absolutely Dr gotman mentioned those as well he said those were unacceptable telling your partner you never you always you’re you’re so lazy you’re such a narcissist you’re stupid those are equally destructive as defensiveness and when we have some unhealed trauma we can so easily default to some of these even if we have a partner who’s not attacking us we still Stonewall or shut down during conflict because our bodies don’t know the difference and it’s throwing us into fight ORF flight mode regardless and unfortunately that means that the thinking part of our brain completely shuts off and we end up defaulting to destructive coping mechanisms from the past that unfortunately are hurting us in the present defensiveness leaves your partner feeling unheard and alone criticism leaves them feeling attacked and belittled contempt leaves them feeling inferior and rejected stonewalling leaves your partner feeling completely abandoned we’re passive aggressive and critical and we blame because we’re terrified to actually be vulnerable and open up and admit we are in pain we’re terrified to admit that we need them not in an unhealthy codependent way but in a healthy interdependent way we need each other we need to lean on each other we’re supposed to be on each other’s team and trust each other we’re supposed to be a safe place for each other if we want this to ever work and I say all that because sometimes the solution ution isn’t just stop being defensive or just be more vulnerable and talk about your feelings sometimes if you’re like Emily and I you need some counseling and therapy to work through some of those old coping mechanisms and understand that they’re there for a reason they were protecting you in some way but they’re hurting you now so we have to have the courage to do something different we have to learn how to pay attention to our feelings and learn what our body goes through when it’s disregulated and triggered we have to admit that this hurts our partner and I don’t want to do this anymore for me when I’m disregulated my heart rate goes up my face gets flushed my voice gets higher I’m arguing I’m interrupting more these are the clues that a conflict is turning into a fight and fights don’t lead to reconnection they usually lead to distance so in those moments one of us needs to have the clarity to say hold on time out I think we’re getting a bit too heated let’s take 30 minutes and come back to this discussion because what you’re saying matters to me that’s not weakness that’s strength and maturity and anyone who says you’re being immature by leaving or that you’re skirting responsibility that’s absolute garbage it doesn’t do anyone any good by staying and fighting with an immature person or staying and fighting when we’re flooded and too heated and the last thing I’ll say about this is from a boundary standpoint discuss these beforehand if someone calls you names if someone yells at you someone chronically invalidates you I would set boundaries around those and leave those conversations boundaries are not about control they can speak to us however they want but I choose how much access of my time and energy and attention they get based on their destructive behaviors because no one deserves to be yelled at or called names or invalidated right they just don’t so let’s stop tolerating those in our relationships now if you’re in an unsafe situation please do not stand up to your abuser get out and get safe and talk with a professional or the authorities everyone else healthy boundaries aren’t you being too much they are simply about you protecting your time and energy okay so let’s get back to receiving a complaint or a hurt what is our goal our goal is to listen to understand we default to curiosity instead of defensiveness we try to see their experience through their lens not just ours it means we ask a follow-up question or two what led you to feeling that way the last thing that we want to do is launch into our own justifications and why they’re making a big deal about nothing all that does is communicate we know best we’ve already judged this situation and you are just being too emotional do you know what that’s called invalidation as in your feelings aren’t valid which would make anyone feel abandoned and unheard by their partner so we need to have an atmosphere where we can hold space for their complaint we look them in the eyes we follow the conversation we nod along and we occasionally say I can see why you would feel that way thank you for telling me that once again if you feel like saying this is only going to lead to them walking all over you then there’s larger issues in their relationship surrounding trust and relationships always break down when there’s no trust even if you don’t agree with their feelings you can still honor their experience as valid and explore it with them so how do we do that well we create a climate where they know that they are safe and that we’re here with them we’re present we’re tracking we’re active listening we’re not interrupting or getting defensive or rolling our eyes we’re treating them like someone we love who is hurt we pay attention to the stories that we’re telling ourselves we pay attention to our interpretation of the events we remind ourselves our interpretation might not be correct both sides need to do this but we remember that they’re simply sharing their heart we would want them to feel safe when they did that and then we validate even if we don’t agree with their feelings we can still ascribe value to them that means they matter to us we can say it makes perfect sense why you would feel neglected we can empathize yeah I would probably feel the same way and then we can own it and apologize although it wasn’t my intention to hurt you I can completely see how it did and I am sorry I’m going to make sure that I hug you and kiss you before bed and chat with you you in fact how about I get a babysitter for Friday night and I take you out just the two of us all right this is the last thing I’m going to say on validation and it could upset some of the women listening so if that’s you I’m sorry if you make an accusation or an interpretation I’m teaching him to validate your feelings not your accusations you might say you disrespected me but he doesn’t agree that he intentionally was being disrespectful and I think you do yourself a disservice if you get hung up on him having to agree that he intentionally disrespected you right when I say validation doesn’t mean agreement it works both ways he doesn’t need to agree with why you’re having those feelings to ascribe value to them and validate and empathize with them and he doesn’t have to agree with your accusations that he was doing something intentionally that he wasn’t doing intentionally what we all need to do is talk about our own personal feelings and experience and in that sense yes we should both validate each other but it doesn’t mean agree with accusations all right let’s finish out this conflict I’m talking to both of you but I especially want men to to pay attention to this because sometimes we’re bad at this once they have shared and you have validated ask them if there’s anything else that’s on their mind anything else that they would like to share that communicates your feelings are more important than my discomfort because for most of us it’s very uncomfortable and we want this conflict to end whether we admit it or not but this communicates that you’re more important than any conflict we have so tell me if there’s anything more can you imagine two people who actually treated each other like this don’t you see how if this was our goal and if it was possible for two people to do this you wouldn’t need a yell to be heard you wouldn’t feel the need to accuse or be critical in order for them to take any accountability there’s no need to yell at someone who’s saying I want you to feel hurt I’m right here you can rely on me there’s no reason to get defensive if you believe they love you and you trust that they don’t want you to feel blamed or unfairly attacked and there’s no need to minimize their feelings because we aren’t insecure we’re not operating from a place of fear anymore at the end of the day this is what makes or breaks our relationships you want to protect your relationship this is the formula check in have the courage to check in every week and just say is there anything on your heart because I want to know are there any areas where you felt prioritized and loved this week is there anything I could do differently can you imagine two people actually doing that can you imagine if they both felt safe to actually be honest can you imagine how much better that would be than the way that we’ve been doing it this is what leads to emotional safety and trust and intimacy and friendship together this is what protects against the drift that can happen in every relationship intentionally moving towards each other with consideration and vulnerability being honest but also respectful and kind don’t wait as long as I did to realize how important this is thank you so much for listening I’ll see you in the next one also I tried to make this one shorter but I just had too much to say I promise I’ll do better next time thanks for anyone who stayed to the end

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