They say that you always hurt the ones you love the most, and man, ain’t that the truth.
Everyone gets annoyed. Everyone gets pee’d off and irritated and many times, those feelings are justified. As strange as it may seem, though, conflict is no bad thing. It is through conflict that we learn about diplomacy, selflessness and the value of someone else’s perspective. Fighting however, an honest to goodness, take off the gloves FIGHT is never good. Because when you fight, you come from a place of irrational anger. You do stupid things, you insult, you belittle and demean. Basically, you act like an a**hole.
Sometimes, most times actually, it just comes down to this: would you rather be happy? Or would you rather be right? The person that you are beefing with has their own point of view and there is every chance that it WILL NEVER change, no matter how persuasive your argument and no matter how right you believe you are. This, of course, is easier accepted than practiced. In the heat of the moment, when your blood is boiling, it’s important to remember that words, especially hateful ones, can never be taken back. Relationships run like fault lines and can move with a violent finality from one place to another based on words alone.
I suppose the question you need to ask yourself is: who do you want to be? Say something really terrible happens, your loved one cheats on you. Do you want to be the person that calls him every name in the book? Slanders everything he is or ever was? Or would you rather be the person that makes it clear how badly you’ve been hurt and then walks away? Why give him or her the satisfaction of your rage? Why ask questions that will never satisfy you? That kind of betrayal can never be explained through a Q & A. It runs too deep and leaves you too raw.
Maybe it’s a much less damaging issue in regards to your partner. Maybe he or she didn’t pay a bill they said they would or you felt like they said something mean-spirited and embarrassed you in front of your friends. Calling them names and screaming in their face is not going to strengthen your relationship. In fact, the best thing you could do is give yourself time and wait until your anger has subsided a bit before addressing it. At the end of the day, you are looking to resolve the conflict, right? Because if you are looking for a fight, if that turns you on, if you feel like you need that kind of interaction with your partner to prove how passionate the two of you are, then you are going to find one at every turn, every choice and at any given minute. And if that’s how you’re operating, then this is not the blog post for you.
There are many avenues to finding a peaceful way through conflict. The first is that you can’t bring up the past. You cannot hoard little upsets and indignities to throw like molotov cocktails later. Once you bring up an issue, once you state how that experience made you feel, you have to let it go. Not for their sake, but for yours. It’s such a burden to carry around the dead weight of all the times you’ve been hurt. If you’ve been hurt that many times then maybe it’s time to end the relationship, whatever kind of relationship (including parental, I might add) it is. Life is hard enough.
Secondly, NO ONE should have the power to make you feel a certain way about yourself. In fact, what someone thinks of you is actually none of your business. Nobody’s perfect and there is always a way to suggest kindly that sometimes the approach someone is using could use a little fine tuning. In fact, even if it stings to hear it, if framed the right way, it may indeed help us grow. BUT if you walk away from a confrontation feeling like you are a bad person or ugly or fat or conceited, you have given up way too much of yourself to a person who probably doesn’t deserve it. YOU are responsible for figuring out who you are, all of you, the good the bad and the ugly. You can’t let anyone project their perspective on to you. It will always be skewed with baggage of their own.
Thirdly, listen up. You cannot hope to resolve a conflict if you have no idea where the other person is coming from. Maybe you think they are full of it, or lying or don’t deserve your attention. But if you feel this way, then why do you have any kind of relationship with that person to begin with? If you have so little respect for them that you aren’t even interested in what they have to say, then sever all ties. Chances are, though, that you do care. So, if you care about this person, in whatever capacity, then don’t let your anger get in the way of letting them speak their piece. Try to hear what they are saying. It may be hurtful, but if it isn’t mean, then there might be a chance for you to take some ownership in the conflict.
Also, there is no YOU in peace. “You’re this”, “You’re that”. This kind of goes back to my point before. You’re projecting way more than that one incident on the person you’re in conflict with. Pain runs deep, especially old hurts that we haven’t dealt with yet or had closure on. When you name call or accuse and finger point, it’s generally about so much more than what you think it is. It sounds New Age-y and mamby pamby but when you address a conflict only in the first person (I’m really feeling lonely, I’m really feeling like you don’t respect me in this situation) you are effectively shutting the anger down and letting out your pain, which in a healthy relationship, will make the other person involved much more likely to really hear you. Besides, you are so much better than the person that demeans and belittles with digs and insults. You .don’t want to be that person.
Finally, allow yourself to be vulnerable, but not too vulnerable. For many years, I used to think it was weak to show people how badly something they said or did hurt me. I was a tough guy. I didn’t need or want anyone’s pity and there was no way that I was going to let on that I couldn’t take it, whatever it was, like the hard ass image I cultivated. Why was is so important for me to appear so invulnerable? Fear probably is the best (short) answer. I let a lot of relationships go in my life because I felt hurt and simply closed the door before I could get hurt more. It’s sad that I didn’t trust the other person enough to let them know that something they had done had caused me real pain. It’s sad I never gave them the benefit of the doubt to fix an issue they might not have even been aware of. I don’t do that anymore. I’m brave enough to show my vulnerabilities. I know there are worse things than addressing the uglier sides of my personality, like say, growing old with no friends or family who want to be around me. Alternately, you do have to have some boundaries around your heart. You can’t shove every emotion into someone’s lap and say “SEE!!! LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO ME!!!” It’s okay to cry. It’s not okay to blackmail someone with your tears. It’s not okay to manipulate and guilt someone into admitting defeat. That’s not a real win anyhow. If that’s how you are dealing with a conflict, there’s a real chance the other person involved doesn’t really respect you as an equal. If there is no equality in your relationship, whatever kind it is, then there is very little chance it will survive the years.
Whew, this is heavy stuff! But important stuff, and the important stuff is rarely easy.