Disagreeing or ‘fighting’ in a primary relationship may not necessarily be sign of incompatibility. That is, as long as there is resolution to the disagreement that is acceptable to both partners and the conflict is resolved. So how often does that really happen? Not nearly as often as it could.
The first step is to agree on what the ‘fight’ or disagreement is about – it usually isn’t about who takes out the garbage, are the finances under control, or whose turn it is to put the kids to bed, etc. More often it is about the negative or uncomfortable feelings these discussions bring up in one or both the partners. Feelings of disrespect, being ignored or taken for granted or treated as invisible or unimportant, promote angry, sad or critical behavior in one partner that is then met with defensiveness, return criticism or stonewalling (“I don’t want to talk about this.”) in the other.
Getting to the heart of the disagreement is a crucial first step and may take the intervention of a third party (not another family member, the kids or a best friend) to assist partners to let go of their highly prized and defended positions about a matter and truly engage in working through the issue at hand.
Once partners improve their ability to define the problem, they can then move on to solving it. Collaboration (the truly best approach) is the practice of seeking options or possible solutions that are agreeable to both partners. Collaborating involves presenting both partner’s possible solutions and if there is not 100% buy in or acceptance by the other, to be willing to go on to option #3, 4, 5 etc. until there is a feeling of win-win. If each partner approaches conflict resolution with the goal of finding a solution that they are pleased with and that is EQUALLY pleasing to their partner, this style of resolving problems become easier and easier.
Needing to be right or always prevailing in a conflict is as destructive as habitually yielding or accommodating yet holding onto resentment. Walking away from a conflict or refusing to revisit it only temporarily sweeps it under the rug. Long term resentment eventually erodes connection and intimacy in relationships and will resurface later. When conflicts are resolved, there is an increase in communication, self-respect, respect for your partner and increased intimacy – all hallmarks of great relationships.