couple counseling, marriage counseling, marriage therapy

Conflict and Repair in Relationships

Is conflict bad.?

Let’s talk about conflict, disagreements, fights, mishaps, all these things where two people living together are just are not agreeing and the conversation is not flowing.

Often conflict emerges  quickly when we disagree. Things might escalate.  There’s a lot of energy in the exchange. And it feels awful.

But what if …

Conflict is not the enemy.

It’s what we do with conflict, the words and the phrases that we use, the way we behave inside conflict scenarios that ruins relationships.  We can trash the relationship. We can do so much damage by insulting our partner, by behaving poorly, perhaps slamming things or walking out. That’s what does the damage in relationships.

It’s not so much that we disagree. It’s what we do with a disagreement.

We know that a happy and connected relationship, does not occur through the elimination of conflict. That’s not what creates a happy relationship. Conflict is not the problem. Sometimes when people come into couples therapy, they indicate that they’ve been fighting a lot. So does this mean that things are bad? No!

It’s what you do after a fight that matters.

What happens after your fights?

Do you repair ?

Do you heal?

Do you get back to some sort of normality?

So conflict itself is not the relationship enemy. We don’t have to have a war on conflict.

Conflict does bring out some of the relationship problems.

That may not serve us anymore. And we do need to be able to resolve that issues. It’s the way you do that within the conflict and what you do after the conflict by way of repair, that makes all the difference.

What is the potential inside conflict?

For some couples,  they  are able to express their opinions and thoughts and feelings and they do that in a gentle and safe and tender manner. They are competent in disagreeing and they do that politely. The conversation is a holding space and an opportunity to understand themselves and their partner better.  If both people  are doing that, then you achieve  a deep understanding of your partner’s inner world. And that’s what we want for two people to live happily together with peace in between.

We want you to understand each other at a deep level.

When you understand each other, you already  to move together with your differences using compromise strategies that enable you to find a peaceful way of living together.

But sometimes it doesn’t happen that way.

For some people, issues get raised in harsh ways. Words come out that are loaded and mean and unfortunately  they can’t be taken back.  You’ve done the damage.

Let’s face it, it’s inevitable that sometimes you’re going to do some damage because we’re not perfect human beings. Sometimes harsh words will come out sometimes damage will be done.

You might snap at your partner just because they haven’t paid the bill on time. Or you might shout rather rather than asking about why they didn’t buy your favourite biscuits?  You might say why did you do this? Don’t you ever think of me? So careless!! You never think of me when you buy the shopping items. And this is critical. It’s a harsh statement. When you’re being criticized and when someone is meeting you with harshness, It’s very hard to respond favourably and try and move towards your partner. Your natural tendency would be to step away or to defend or to become critical back.

And none of that is useful for building relationships. So it’s important to recognize if you fall into that trap of using harsh words or harsh statements or deliver your message with a harsh tone. It’s important to recognize that you’ve done that and you’ll need to make a repair. Don’t just leave up floating.

Words hurt.

You may be using words to hurt your partner or you may be calling them names or maybe there’s some abuse, then you can’t just leave that.

You will need to apologize for your bad deeds… but it’s better to not let them out in the first place.

So can you be contained and controlled?

Can you discuss without letting conflict come in between you?

Repair is mandatory after a fight

So what are we talking about when we talk about a repair?

You need to heal it, you need to fix it, you need to atone and  you need to apologize.

You can just say sorry, “that came out too harshly. Let me try again.”

Or

“let me just start again and be gentler this time”.

Or

You could say “I’m sorry, I’m really worried about the way that came out. And I’d like you to know that I’m just upset I didn’t get my favorite biscuits”

Or

you might even say “look, I’m really worried about my diet. And I know that those biscuits happen to be the ones that have the least fat content and I really wanted them so I could stay on my diet”

Whatever you say you are showing more of you and this is defining yourself more deeply.

It’s letting your partner into what’s going on for you-  without the harshness and the criticism – without  giving them the message that they are wrong or that they are bad or that somehow they’re not living up to your standard.

They’re not good enough – I haven’t met anybody who wants to receive that message.

So if that’s you being critical or being harsh, using words as a secret weapon to rip up the love between you.

If you’re allowing conflict and differences to come between you and you’re not showing up as your best self, you will need to make a repair.

A repair is a way to stop the conflict from escalating.

And what we know from science is that when you make small repairs, you’re will find that there’s a decrease in the conflict between you.

You both need to be committed to repair because the repair is what heals a relationship.

If you’ve done some damage, you want to heal the relationship and get the two of you back on track to a loving bond that can grow and blossom.

Accept your partner’s repair attempts.

I hope that you are committing to making your own repair attempt right now. You and your partner have a responsibility to keep the conflict constructive. Not to use it as a weapon to destroy the love between you.

If you want to be guided to have a deepening conversation with your partner, download the conflict Scaffold now.


Let's build your better relationship.

Iman Iskander is a Couples and Marriage Counsellor with a relationship therapy  practice in Sydney. She is passionate about helping couples improve their love and lives through practical, science  based  strategies that work.  She specialises in repairing a couple’s  interaction, building lasting mindful relationships and she holds engaging skill building workshops in Sydney CBD.

Iman believes that you can thrive and with each person thriving, we as a community can thrive. We are the same in our difference.

Let's build your better relationship.

Reach out and contact me now for a free 15 minute chat to see how I can help.

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