Arguments don’t have to be relationship destroyers!
Mindfulness is a more important part of communication in relationships and conflict resolution than many people realize.
Are you part of a couple that ends up suffering from intense arguing that never seems to get resolved? Maybe you’re wondering how to improve your communication skills?
It’s time to practice mindfulness, which helps you to communicate freely and openly in a healthy relationship.
You and your partner have unconsciously polluted the space where you both live and you don’t know how to clean it! Your relationship lives in the space between you, says philosopher Martin Buber.
That space is sacred. And when you pollute it, it becomes dangerous and you react to the danger you both perceive. When that happens, you disconnect and go into crisis. If you don’t know how to clean the space, your relationship is either doomed or you live lives of “quiet desperation.”
Conflict is productive in healthy relationships.
There is no intimacy without conflict; unless, of course, you agree never to disagree. Then you have a codependent relationship. In healthy relationships, neither partner subjugates their feelings to please the other.
Conflicts need to be externalized and resolved. Couples need to have rules to negotiate differences. There are many modalities that teach couples how to have effective communication, but none of these can be successful without the art of “presencing.”
Be here now.
“Presencing” is the willingness to be in the here and now, focused, attuned, and mindful to your partner with an open heart and mind. It includes active listening and patience.
Being actively present in your relationship and learning to communicate with one another helps stop the arguing before it starts and gives couples the chance to become attuned to each other’s needs.
So, how can you improve conflict resolution and promote effective communication?
Here are 10 ways couples can practice mindfulness in conflict resolution and improve communication to build intimacy.
1. Be assertive.
Learn how to ask for what you need and express your feelings.
Your partner can’t read your mind — they need to hear how you feel and what you’re experiencing. It’s important to express your truth, even if it sometimes means hurting your loved one or making them angry.
It takes courage to confront someone you love, but if you don’t, nothing gets accomplished and your resentment grows, hurting both you and the relationship.
If your partner can’t handle your feelings, perhaps you don’t belong together; or maybe you need to be working with a professional counselor in couples’ therapy
2. Stay present.
In dealing with conflict, it’s important to hear what your partner is saying and for them to be willing to hear you. Going back through history and collecting data to make a point about what is happening now is not as effective as being specific about something that just occurred.
If the problem is a re-occurring theme you’ve swept under the carpet to avoid conflict or because you fear your partner’s response, then perhaps you it’s appropriate to give an account of several instances when this issue occurred. But from then on, stay in the moment with current issues.
Collecting problems and storing them up often causes you to act out in anger as opposed to expressing it in healthy ways.
3. Avoid lecturing.
Nothing is a bigger turn-off than being lectured and having advice forced down your throat. Lecturing is a sure way to push your partner to go into “fight or flight” mode.
Lecturing will surely remind them of someone in their past — perhaps their mother or father, depending who did the lecturing when they were being scolded as a child. It will only trigger trauma and cause your partner to become reactive.
4. Avoid judgment and criticism.
Expressing judgments and criticism are other ways to incite a fight.
Whenever you throw judgments around, they will spin right back to you. Judgments and criticism are two of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” couple’s therapist and researcher John Gottman identifies in his work with couples. (Contempt and stonewalling are the other two.)
All these behaviors will induce shame, pollute the relationship’s space, and create distance between you.
5. Be honest.
Nothing works better than honesty. Changing the facts to massage your point, exaggerating, or stretching the story only creates a stronger defense from the other side.
Remember: The brain often distorts, deletes, and generalizes information. It’s very important to be as accurate and honest as you can. We all wear different filters based on our biological makeup and history when we perceive conflict.
Being rigorously honest is your best bet.
6. Don’t argue about details.
Another way to lose your partner’s interest and patience is to detail them to death.
Most people — especially men — want the bottom line, so make it brief and to the point. If your partner needs more information, they will ask for it.
If you repeat the same things over and over, adding insignificant details to magnify the case, you’ll lose them in the process. Stay with specific sensory, fact-based data. Sometimes less is more!
7. Don’t assign blame.
When you put your partner at fault, they’ll find a reason to make you at fault in return. Remember, it’s not a blame game. Unless your partner abuses you, ignores you, or is MIA, don’t blame.
If your partner does any of the things mentioned in the above sentence, it’s time to seek professional counseling or leave!
8. Practice active listening.
It’s very easy to “unload” on your partner; it’s harder to listen. Active listening takes practice.
When you actively listen, you use all your senses to listen attentively to what your partner is saying. You convey interest through nonverbal cues, like eye contact and head-nodding, or verbal signals such as saying “yes” or “mhmm” to encourage the speaker to continue.
Many people want to jump in and battle with their tongues. If you learn to listen, you’ll be surprised at what you learn.
Your partner may have said something you missed by jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Good listening is at least 50 percent of effective communication. Sometimes it’s not what you say, it’s what you hear.
9. Only fight about one thing at a time.
We often have a bad habit of lashing out with a laundry list of complaints when we argue. Remember that the goal is to focus on one thing at a time in an argument.
If you present your partner with a list of character defects and frustrating instances that occurred last month or years ago, they’ll either become defensive or check out.
Many people (especially women) tend to carry a gunnysack with them to stack up evidence of every infraction that occurred in their entire relationship. Wheeling this sack of problems out when couples fight will never bring about a successful resolution in any relationship.
10. Choose finding a solution rather than being “right” — and don’t use sex as a distraction.
Would you rather be right or happy? Staying present and battling it out using effective, fair fighting tools will be your best ticket to intimacy.
Sure, you will have differences. Who doesn’t? But communication begins with a discussion, not sex. Sex will not resolve your issues.
Many couples use sex as a distraction to the discussion, but it’s not a resolution. Use your tools to fight fair, and your sex life will improve! Once you’re solving problems, the intimacy in your relationship rises to a new level.
If you still have difficulty resolving a conflict, you might want to consider setting up a session with a couples’ counselor.
Joan E Childs, LCSW is a renowned psychotherapist, inspirational speaker and author of I HATE THE MAN I LOVE: A Conscious Relationship is Your Key to Success to be released May, 2020. To learn more about how Encounter-Centered Couple Therapy can renew and restore your relationship, contact Joan
This article was originally published at www.yourtango.com Reprinted with permission.