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How Conflict Can Create Love

How Conflict Can Create Love

We fade in on a couple sitting quietly at Sunday morning breakfast. Suddenly, a seemingly innocuous comment swiftly shifts the peaceful mood into prodigious conflict.

She: Could you be more careful when you take out the trash? Yesterday you left a total mess.

He: (stung) Well, excuse me. I didn’t know I was getting the white-glove test.

She: (annoyed by his tone): I don’t see how you could have missed it. Are you blind?

He: I just can’t win. Whatever I do, it’s never good enough for you.

She: Well, if you would just open your eyes and pay attention to what you were doing, then I wouldn’t have to say anything.

He: There you go, blaming me again. You are such a control freak.

So it goes until they either start yelling or stop talking altogether. All couples experience conflict—but conflict can either break their connection or be the basis for deeper intimacy. Imagine the same conflict expressed in a different way:

She: I want to ask you something, but I don’t want you to take it the wrong way. Thank you for taking out the trash, but next time could you please check to see if you left any trash behind? I would really appreciate it.

He: I’m sorry. I was in a hurry and didn’t realize that I did that. I’ll double-check next time, and thank you for telling me in such a nice way.

Falling in love is a truly wonderful experience, but love doesn’t stay wonderful all by itself. Continuing to love that same person over time depends on our ability to resolve conflicts that naturally arise. Most relationships fail because couples are not able to resolve conflicts in a healthy way. Couples who blame, criticize, defend, and rage will have great difficulty maintaining intimacy.

We have all witnessed couples who are quarreling, and their level of criticism, contempt, and defensive behavior makes it clear why they’re having trouble. When couples take the gloves off and use words like weapons, they wipe out all the good feelings. They too easily fall into using the same dysfunctional skills they learned in their own families, and they create the same anger and resentment in their current relationship that they felt growing up. Each person’s sense of reality is based on his or her own unique perspective, which can result from their total experience in the world, not just their childhood.

We are all born with a certain temperament, physical appearance, intelligence, and innate talents. We believe, think, need, care about, are sensitive to, or are wounded by certain experiences, some similar to each other’s and some quite different. These diverse traits and experiences form our personality and worldview. When we find that special someone, we are encountering a different set of traits and experiences, forming our partner’s particular personality. Where our differences clash, conflicts arise, shaped by our particular patterns of personality and experience.

Conflict is the natural result of our different likes and dislikes, our particular sensitivities, our perceived slights, and our emotional wounds—in short, of our being two diverse people. All couples experience conflict, and accepting that conflict is a natural process is an important step toward creating intimacy. The problem is not that we fight, it’s how we fight. How we respond to conflicts has everything to do with how we resolve them. Productive and efficient conflict resolution is a vital dynamic in the creation of lasting love. Until we learn this crucial skill, we will find ourselves caught up in the same negative exchanges time and again.

I once worked with a couple in which the husband was angry and bitter toward his wife because she never initiated sex. Of course, his behavior was completely counterproductive: his anger and bitterness made his wife withdraw all the more. As we peeled back the layers, we discovered that he felt truly unlovable. Once he understood where his anger was coming from, he could risk expressing how much he loved and needed his wife. This work helped them forge a deeper bond that in turn led to an improved sexual connection. It just took some digging to ferret out the conflict’s source.

Conflict is layered. The first layer is what we observe on the surface. There are often several other layers of emotion, related to our past experiences and ultimately how we feel about ourselves. Conflict taps into our entire personality and stimulates all our defenses. On the positive side, conflict also presents a unique opportunity to both learn about ourselves and, if the conflict is resolved properly, create a deeper intimate connection.

Resolving conflicts is a true art form and takes patience, tolerance and caring to pull off. If we listen, acknowledge our partner and validate their truth whether we agree with it or not it creates love. If we think of love as a creation then every conflict contains the opportunity to bring love to the surface. We can either bring out the good in one another or force a standoff that can last a lifetime. It’s our choice. The human spirit responds to compassion, understanding, respect and empathy, and the result is the thing we call love.

 

Related:
7 Ways to Work Out Negative Emotions with Your Mate
Why ‘Always’ and ‘Never’ Hurt Relationships
The #1 Thing Couples Fight About

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Dr. Bill Cloke

Dr. Bill Cloke has worked with individuals and couples for 30 years. He received a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern California and holds a PhD in psychology from California Graduate Institute. A frequent talk-radio and TV psychologist, he is also a contributor to PsychologyToday.com and other popular websites and has lectured at UCLA. Bill Cloke lives with his wife in Los Angeles. To learn more about Bill Cloke, and for more resources on creating healthy, happy relationships, visit happytogetherbook.com.

8 comments

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7:19AM PDT on Aug 19, 2012

When did the basics of the "good old days" die? Immersed in the ideas of family and community for self AND the next guy,now all but gasping for survival, in favor of the me, mine, screw you all mindset of the intellectuals. Shameful legacy we're accumulating here.

7:57PM PDT on Aug 18, 2012

Communicating properly is a learned skill and takes awareness and practice. Some naturally charming people are not so wonderfully charming when you get to know them well and they let down their guard.

I think that the 2nd example given in this article, is capable of being achieved if you are aware of how you wish to be perceived by others. This may be regarded as the risk of involving one's ego, but it certainly brings out the best in others.

8:23PM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

Sure, this may work for some, but if you have a disagreement, your partner may turn it around and even though it's their fault, they will make it your fault. Stubborness, and the "I'm always right, You're always wrong" led to my divorce. No compromising.....

3:36PM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

thanks for sharing. assertive behavior is best in every situation(:

9:26AM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

Resolving conflict in an effective way is truly an artform. Relationships must be "maintained" on a regular basis - just like keeping a car running smoothly! But it takes everyone to do his/her part. That's the catch.

8:19AM PDT on Aug 17, 2012

thank you!

11:52AM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

"The social way of developing cosmic consciousness is to love your family, neighbors, country, and the whole world as yourself. You are the king, and the kingdom of your love includes not only all human beings, but also animals, flowers, stars, and all living creatures. Love all men as your brothers, love all women as your sisters, love all elderly men and women as your parents, and love all human beings—the black, brown, yellow, white, red, and olive-colored races—as your friends and brothers. This is the social way of attaining cosmic con-sciousness."

http://www.crystalclarity.com/content.php?type=sample&code=BSR



11:51AM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

thanks Bill

i think heading towards unconditional love is a goal too

by a saint who lived unconditional love, Yogananda gave some tips to start to achieve his level of love for humanity:
(from Yogananda book "Spiritual Relationships"):

"The Social Way to Omnipresence

The social way to attain cosmic consciousness is to expand the germ of divine love within the soul. Too much love of your own ego confines the soul to the boundaries of the flesh. The soul is an omnipresent re-flection of the all-pervading Spirit. The ego is the body-bound consciousness of the soul. The soul as ego for-gets its omnipresence and considers itself limited by the body.

When the ego begins, through practical sympathy, to feel itself in other bodies, it begins to regain its for-gotten omnipresence. Unlike the shortsighted worldly man, the divine soul works not only for himself as one body, but also for himself in the body of others. You must learn to seek nourishment, prosperity, healing, or wisdom, not for yourself in one body only, but for your-self in all bodies.

The social way of developing cosmic consciousness is to love your family, neighbors, country, and the whole world as yourself. You are the king, and the kingdom of your love includes not only all human beings, but also animals, flowers, stars, and all living creatures. Love all men as your brothers, love all women as your sisters, love all elderly men and women as your parents, and love all human beings—the black, br

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