According to the IRS, the definition of a partnership is: “the relationship between two or more persons who join to carry out a trade or business. Each person contributes money, property, labor or skill, and expects to share profits or losses of the business.” Sounds a lot like marriage, right? All good business begins with a partnership, a merging of two minds, emotions, life experiences, values, morals, and communication styles. Whether it is before you sign the marriage certificate or after, there is a merging of tangible objects (furniture, bank accounts, belongings) and of the not so tangible (friends, traditions, religion).
In my professional experience, couples have stated many times in therapy, “My husband walks away and avoids talking to me” and “My wife is always nagging me and doesn’t let anything go.” It is important to consider that females and males process emotions differently. Typically, men like to be alone to gather their thoughts and come up with a solution focused way of handling the situation. Females, on the other hand, tend to be more expressive and emotional. They are less worried about the outcome and more worried about “what can you do for me now?”
Often during a conflict with a significant other, one does not have enough self-awareness to walk away and take a breather. This leads to acting impulsively, threatening, or shutting down completely. None of which help the situation. If you were in a business meeting and you were unhappy, would you become aggressive and threatening? Would you bring up the past to put your colleagues down? Would you run away to avoid the situation completely? I am going to guess no. So why are we so willing to fight with those we should be fighting for? Do we treat our business partners better than our life partners?
Below are guidelines that can help navigate through a conflict with your partner. The hope is that you can turn an unhealthy dialogue into a healthy, meaningful one.
1. Remember that marriage is a “we” business. The marriage must be placed first before our individual needs to create a united front, a team. Just like in any partnership, if you are always trying to win, the goals get lost, and the family or partnership loses. So ask yourself, “would I rather be right or happy?”
2. Process information as quickly as possible. It is never good to push things under the rug to discuss at a later date. Communicate feelings and emotions related to the argument quickly and effectively. “Swept up” emotions will lead to future resentments.
3. Stay with the subject. Process one issue at a time. Most of the time if we try to bring up every unresolved issue, it becomes overwhelming and one or both of you will shut down.
4. No name calling! You can’t take it back.
5. Take a moment to ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say going to help or hurt the situation?” Often times, you will see that no good will come from saying things just to see how the other person will respond.
6. Tune in to your listening skills. Try to be your own therapist. Take a moment to really listen to what your partner is saying and ask them to do the same.
It is important to remember that you agreed to this partnership for a reason and that conflict is a part of all healthy relationships. By utilizing the above guidelines, you may have a better chance of communicating your thoughts and feelings in a more productive way to help your relationship grow and thrive.