When you navigate conflict with your lover instead of running and avoiding it, you build the confidence that, no matter what, you have each other’s back, even in the darkest moments. The more comfortable you can get with the uncomfortable moments, the closer and more deeply connected you feel with your partner. Conflict is inevitable, particularly with your partner, so how can you be more intentional and learn the lessons that conflict CAN teach you? The most challenging question is, “where, when, and how do I start”? Today, at this moment, is the answer.
The first step is to bring up an uncomfortable situation where you feel that yucky feeling of not being your best self, maybe feeling rigid, blaming, judging, or critical. The only control you have is within yourself; you can’t control how the other person begins to take accountability for their part in the fight. Imagine, at this moment, what is beneath your hurt or angry feelings. Is it a feeling of rejection, loneliness, disconnection, or disrespect?
One of my favorite Buddhist teachers, Tara Brach, uses the term “attend and befriend” when you get out of reactivity and defensiveness and attend to your wounds, you gain clarity and wisdom to move through limitations that conflict can bring within yourself. Attending and befriending provide a space of compassion for your suffering; it allows you to grow through complicated feelings and create a path to healing. Once you have this space, perhaps you notice slivers of compassion opening up for your partner’s suffering, and you can see that they are also caught in a rigid box of blaming, defensiveness and judgment.
Paying attention to your unmet needs in this situation allows you to reach in with intentionality and wrap yourself up in a blanket to feel safe and secure at this moment. When you better understand your unmet needs and verbalize them in a heartfelt way to your partner, the doorway to increased intimacy and connection opens up, and the world is your oyster. You are now acting as your best imperfect self and clearly identifying and verbalizing needs, which creates success in love relationships. Take the time today to reflect on your unmet needs, be kind and loving to that wounded part, and tender feelings will be the replacement.