Many couples come to marriage counseling for relationship advice at the top of a new year. Seeking help at the start of the new year is crucial to ensuring our relationships are on track with fitness and financial resolutions.
I work with couples who initially believe any conflict in a relationship is bad and that’s just not true. If there are two people, there will always be disagreements. The key to successful couples is how they address it. Do we leave our partner feeling completely devastated after an argument or do we both leave an argument feeling heard?
There are many methods to improve communication in a relationship but there are 4 key advice tips. And they all center around conflict management. Yes, I said conflict management and not conflict elimination.
Conflict management is simply creating a system of actions that limit the negative aspects of conflict while increasing the positive aspects of such. The positive aspects of conflict management enhanced learning and relationship outcomes. Conflict management will not only effectively improve your relationship satisfaction, but it will consistently and continually improve your overall personal happiness.
Conflict will always happen and will always change in a relationship. But a couple who can establish a system to manage their conflict can go the distance! Here’s the 4th greatest key advice to do this:
4th Relationship Advice Key: Be Non-Defensive
Defensiveness is when one or both of you always must defend their actions regardless of the evidence. As an example, let’s say a couple, Harry and Lisa, are getting dressed to go to a New Year’s Eve party and the party starts at 8 pm. At 8:30 Harry is dressed and ready while Lisa is not.
Harry (Criticism) – “Lisa, I’m so sick and tired of you always making us so late! You’re never on time!”
Lisa (Defensiveness) – “You’re just so perfect, aren’t you? You just need to relax! I’ve got a lot more to do than you do. My hair and makeup take a long time. I didn’t say anything when you made us late to Christmas dinner when we had to stop for gas because you forgot. You’re such an idiot.”
First, Harry used criticism and was wrong in his statement to Lisa. And Lisa not only attempts to defend her habit of being late but then attempts to counter-attack. This defense and counter-attack approach only increases tensions and negative interactions. This couple might be in for a long miserable evening.
The cure for defensiveness is to accept some responsibility. Accepting responsibility works to deescalate a conflict. People are less prone to continue to attack a partner that has let their guard down. Think about it, when someone is vulnerable, we are less likely to keep attacking them.
The following is a response from Lisa illustrating her accepting responsibility.
Lisa (accepting responsibility) – “You’re right sweetheart, I should have started getting ready earlier, I’m sorry!”
Even if Lisa believed that she didn’t have a problem being late, often she can accept responsibility and address her partners concerns in a respond like:
Lisa (accepting responsibility): “You think I’m late often? I’ll have to work on that. Thanks for pointing it out!”
By accepting even a little responsibility conflicts can be managed better and deescalated.
I know this might not be natural for some people. Many of us might come from an environment where being defensive seemed like the only way to win an argument.
We must change what we define as “Winning” in a relationship. To “win” in a relationship, is to maximize understanding, vulnerability, and comfort during every interaction possible. Being in a defensive state will only shut down all these relationship must-haves.
Check back here soon for the 3rd Relationship Advice Key To Improving Your Relationship: Combating Criticism. And click below for a 50% off your first one-on-one session with me to learn how to be non-defensive in your relationship.