A disagreement is about learning more about yourself and your partner. It is not about winning.
And I am slowly learning that conflict is a necessary evil for it serves as the refiner’s fire in which we are confronted with our fears, blind spots, and selfishness.
Relationships (good or bad) are magnifying glasses that highlight our differences and they are tools that can help us to learn how to love and cherish our partners better and learn of the areas that we have to surrender to God through prayer.
Today, my relationship served as a magnifying glass.
I found myself in a petty, heated discussion with my partner about minor issues. I was riled up on the other end of the conversation before I realized that I was displacing my frustration with my current crucible on my partner.
I had to pause and tap into my emotional tank to appreciate that the disagreement was about learning more of myself, the power I had given my current crucible and where my partner was emotionally and spiritually.
This disagreement was not about winning.
And as petty and minor as these heated discussions or disagreements may appear, they are powerful enough to create incredible damage to the trust, safety, romance and longevity of any relationship, if they continue for a consistent amount of time.
So how can we prevent relational causalities from taking place when our thoughts differ from those of our partners?
When something is said to us, our emotions become highly aroused and we transition into fight or flight modes. This probably explains why most persons aggressively stonewall their partner or ignore the problem or shut down (flight) or defensively throw stones at their partners through hurtful, critical, snide words or actions (fight).
It is always best to relax and calm ourselves, collect our thoughts and decide on a loving approach to handling the issue at hand.
And, relaxing ourselves takes different forms for many of us. A few months ago, my partner shared that he sometimes asks for time to respond to heated discussions so that he can relax and pray. That is his way of centering himself. I practice deep breathing and scriptural affirmations. The approach you use to pause and relax yourself in a God-approved way, prevents you from saying and committing unnecessary words and actions in the moment of conflict.
Listen warmly to what is said and what is not said.
One thing I have learnt during my current relationship is that what is being fought about is just as important as how you are fighting and those two are just as important as the place your partner is arguing from. It is important to remain sensitive to where your partner is coming from.
Try to listen to your partner’s feelings. Appreciate that all conflict stems from a root and sometimes you have to be the bigger person and dig deep within the emotional lagoon of your partner and ask them how they are feeling in the moment.
It may be something that they are not sharing with you that is frustrating and bothering them and through the common act of displacement they are directing their unwanted and unresolved emotions on you.
Knowing where your partner is coming from emotionally can shift your perspective on the entire disagreement.
Check your motivation.
As much as you are to check the place that your partner may be speaking and responding from, it is critical that you assess the place that you are coming from? How are you feeling in this moment? Will the words you choose help or hurt the situation? Is healing or wholeness the motive for confronting your partner or being right and winning to gain an emotional upper hand, your motivation?
Check your motivation and attitude.
Choose your emotion.
Just as conflict is inevitable; it also always presents choices: Will I be defensive or receptive? Humble or self-righteous? Merciful or stubborn?
How we choose to respond determines if we will strengthen the relationship or further chip at its core.
Choose to respond from a place of love and not a place of fear, anger, control or criticism.
Advice from a wise-head
My dad recently shared with me that sometimes we wait until we are in marriage to actually appreciate the role healthy relationships play in our lives. But even before marriage, relationships, especially committed, public ones, are sermons.
Everything that a couple does is a message to the world about God’s love.
I have considered this thought and have been asking myself every now and again, “What message is my relationship preaching to those watching?” What is my relationship saying about God’s ability to work in two different people to operate in love and as one, even when it is not convenient or beneficial? How is my relationship blessing others as it is blessing my life?”
Recognizing that my relationship is more about God than myself, propels me to fight and argue, well and warmly with my partner because THIS is for the glory of God.
Advice from the Word
God’s word also shines light on how we can engage with our partners better while we experience emotional disruptions.
The following scriptural affirmations have guided me and kept me accountable to God’s standard of love when differences surface in my relationship:
Affirmation: I will speak to my partner respectfully and lovingly.
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
Affirmation: I will not allow my anger or frustration to control me.
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Ephesians 4:26-27
Affirmation: I will not seek revenge or engage in any form of pettiness or savagery against the one I love.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 ESV
Affirmation: My experience and education may serve as good guides in healthily handling conflict but God is the greatest guide.
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:6 ESV
Affirmation: I will not run away from facing issues with my partner. When the time is right and my emotions are settled, we will address the issues together.
Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5:25-26
(C) 2017, Dentrecia Blanchette