The blueprint for a successful relationship is not so much a formula as it is a shift in perspective. In his Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman finds that nearly 70% of problems in a relationship are unsolvable. It’s not because there is no conflict, but merely differences in personality or lifestyle that rub one another the wrong way. Instead of seeking to eliminate the problem through resolution, it’s best to manage the conflict so that it does not grow into a long-standing, divisive issue in the future.
Open, honest lines of communication are crucial to managing current conflicts. Both partners must be given the opportunity to fully state their positions or attitudes using “I” statements. This ensures that neither party tries to persuade or shift blame, but instead communicates their feelings so that the other may acknowledge their position respectively. The goal is not to have your significant other adopt your point of view, but merely to understand it—and visa versa (although this is not always easy to do because old habits die hard).
When discussing the conflict itself, and not just how it made you and your partner feel, it’s important to avoid negative tones, words, and gestures. These do nothing but put distance between you and your significant other. Instead, be genuine, own up to what you should take responsibility for, and apologize when it’s appropriate. This is difficult for many, but without being able to do so, you and your partner will habitually fight—to no avail for either of you. When speaking, speak respectfully and calmly. When listening, be present in the moment, showing your partner that you care. Disagreements and arguing are, in many respects, inevitable. However, it’s important that you two find peace in what you can’t change about one another, while working towards improving your relationship in the areas that have room for growth.
Don’t forget that there is hope for a better tomorrow, a future where you both find fulfillment in one another. If you and your loved one are having trouble communicating and managing conflicts within the relationship, seeking marriage counseling from Susan Block can help. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist that can facilitate communication and help to reinforce healthy relational habits, giving you a rock-solid foundation for you two to stand upon. Do not delay. Your life together hangs in the balance.