By Dr. Richard Nicastro
“I really hate it when we argue…but I’ve also learned so much about my husband from our fights and we have a stronger relationship now.” ~Sandra, married seven years
Even the most effective communicators get into spats now and then. And despite your best efforts at marital bliss, you and your partner will disagree and argue from time to time.
But not all conflict is bad-conflict (if handled correctly) can teach you a great deal about yourself and your spouse or partner.
Relationship Help: From conflict to connection
Ideally, conflict can lead to an increase in mutual understanding and a healthy re-adjustment of your relationship, rather than estrangement. Of course, during a heated exchange it may feel like your world is ending and that you’re in love with the most unreasonable person on the planet-so how can such an unwelcome experience lead to growth?
The opportunity for greater intimacy comes after an argument, in the post-conflict analysis.
Have you ever noticed how most sporting events have a post-game analysis? By going over what happened, coaches and athletes discover what worked and didn’t, they examine their strengths (what they should be doing more of) and their areas of vulnerability (what they should change); they then set goals for how to use this information to improve future performance.
Doesn’t your marriage or relationship deserve this level of attention?
Marriage help action steps:
So here are a few post-conflict questions for you and your spouse or partner to reflect on (try to think of a few of your own):
1. What can I learn about myself (my strengths and areas of vulnerability) from how I reacted and behaved during the conflict?
2. What can I learn about my spouse or partner (his/her strengths and areas of vulnerability) from how s/he reacted and behaved?
3. How can I use this information to show more understanding and greater appreciation of my spouse or partner?
The information gathered from these questions can ultimately lead to more effective communication and greater intimacy. To get the most out of your post-conflict analysis, it will be important for you to wait until you regain your emotional footing-in other words, you should feel calm and centered while reflecting on these questions (so you may need to wait until any strong, residual feelings left over from the conflict dissipate).
You will strengthen your relationship when you make a post-conflict analysis a regular part of your marriage or relationship. Because conflict is painful, many couples simiply ignore what happened and try to get on with there life. When you do this, however, you’re ignoring important information that can help pave the way for a more harmonious marriage or relationship. So when you set aside the time to examine the nature of conflict, you place yourself in the drivers seat of the relationship, rather than leaving the outcome of your marriage or relationship to chance.
And don’t forget, you can make a significant impact on your relationship all by yourself. So if your partner isn’t on board with doing a post-conflict analysis, you can do it on your own and change your behavior in ways that will positively impact the future of your marriage or relationship.