If you are going to try any of the six steps to conflict resolution that I am offering to you, the fifth step is the one. The fifth step to my steps to conflict resolution goes like this: before saying anything to your partner, ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say going to help or hurt the situation?” Really ask yourself: What is the purpose or intent behind what you are saying? What is motivating you to speak up? Will this serve the greater goal of keeping the relationship intact? I have seen this step time and time again stop conflict in its tracks before it even occurs! Oftentimes, you will see that no good will come from saying things just to see how the other person will respond. Don’t get me wrong, friends, I am not asking you to not speak up; I am asking you to really go deep and question what is driving you. If it is revenge, turn the bus around!
Some people learn by example, so I will give you a real life situation that occurred in my practice. I was counseling a lesbian couple, and one of the women had been unfaithful, which caused her fiancé to retaliate. They agreed to come to counseling to try to process what happened, move forward, and stay together. After hearing their story, I explained to them my six steps to conflict resolution. When we arrived at this step, the woman who was cheated on came back to session and stated, “I was in the car driving with my fiancé and I saw a car that looked like the woman’s car that she cheated on me with. In that moment I was triggered and I wanted to talk about what she had done to me, to us. Then I thought, ‘What will this serve? Will this help or hurt what we are trying to accomplish?’ In that moment I got it! Had I said what I wanted to say, nothing good would have come from it and I most likely wouldn’t have felt better because it would have led to an argument.” My client realized that by letting go, she was able to avoid conflict and move forward, which was their goal in therapy.
I started implementing this step in my relationship with my husband about 4 or 5 years ago. I realized that by bringing up things that I had not fully processed, or that hurt me but he could do nothing about, only ended up hurting our relationship by causing us to fight. We all want our partners to acknowledge our emotions. What we need to do is make sure we serve the greater good of the relationship and not just ourselves individually.
I encourage you to try step five this week. If you are unsure about something you want to bring up to your partner because it may cause a conflict, I want you to first ask yourself: will it help or hurt? In that moment you will think of this blog and I ask that you PLEASE post or comment about your experience.
Natalie Nesbitt, MS, LPC, loves working with couples! Helping them find the passion in their relationship; remove blocks that are keeping them from being their best; learning to have a marriage they have only dreamed. Providing personalized couples therapy and life counseling at her private psychotherapy practice in Paoli, Pennsylvania, conveniently located on the Main Line. She has helped countless couples save their marriages and/or relationships and come back from the deepest of betrayals.