Most of us don’t like conflict. We’re afraid it will harm our relationships. But conflict doesn’t ruin relationships, lack of positive connection does.
It’s not if you fight (that’s inevitable); it’s how you resolve your arguments.
“Why do you always let other people talk you into things? You know how much I like to keep things simple! And it’s going to cost me a fortune. You only think about yourself. Don’t even think about it!”
“It’s not about me; it’s about making my Father happy. You don’t care about other’s wants, you’re the selfish one! It’s all about you!”
This couple is in a pattern of personal attacks, defensiveness, and contempt. How did they get here?
It’s not how often couples fight that predicts relationship failure, it’s how little affection and emotional responsiveness they offer each other.
When couples become defensive or turn away (stonewall) from their partners, conflicts get nasty.
If things get nasty, take a break, letting the other person know when it’s a better time to discuss the issue.
Before you start the discussion to resolve your conflict, get into a grateful mood. Gratitude is the antidote for resentment. Tell your partner 5 things they did in the past week, that you appreciated.
In every conflict, there is a conversation the couple needed to have, but a fight occurred instead. Have that conversation. Listen to understand.
Sunil: Why don’t you go first and tell me why you agreed with your father that we would offer all guests garlands. Even though you know I wanted a simple Hare Krsna wedding.
Anita: We discussed trying to please all our parents, if we could, at the same time not go overboard and get into meaningless, costly rituals. At least, meaningless for us.
Sunil: Right. You acknowledge we would try and keep it simple.
Anita: My father wants to honor your family, and that’s important etiquette for him. So he suggested when your family enters the building, we honor them with garlands. He wasn’t meaning every single person in the party, just your mother and father and grandmother, and a few other close family members.
Sunil: So, if I heard you right, it’s not garlands for everyone, and I just overreacted.
Anita: I didn’t say you overreacted. Are you admitting it (smiling)? My father was just really excited about this, it was important for him, and I also thought it would be nice. I wasn’t thinking it was overboard. I know you didn’t want a lot of ritual, but this was important to my dad. “
Sunil: So you weren’t thinking to go total Bollywood, you just wanted to please your dad? And everyone doesn’t need a garland. ”
Anita: Yeah! You got me! Your turn.
Sunil: I really want a nice simple wedding and I wasn’t thinking there would be a lot of pre-wedding ritual. All the different families concerned each want something different and its endless….
Anita: So you are not inspired by endless ritual?
Sunil: Yeah. I really want it simple, but meaningful. And also I guess I maybe thought it was more than just a few garlands for some of the family. But who will make them? And garlands are pricey these days.
Anita: You’re worried it will be hard to do and expensive?
Sunil: Yeah. I guess I’m already overwhelmed and this was one more thing I was not expecting.
Anita: I get you’re overwhelmed and really don’t want lots of meaningless expensive extras.
Anita: OK lets brainstorm what to do, now that my father is attached.
- We could just elope
- We could buy simple garlands
- Offer boutonnieres instead
- Explain things in more detail, so I don’t get so overwhelmed with the unknown
- Tolerate, spend to the max to please everyone
- Buy fancy garlands for some and simple ones for others
- Get Srimati, not the florist, to make simple garlands for the family
- Tell your Dad, we’re sorry, but its not part of our Hare Krsna program.
Anita: OK, which ones do you like?
Sunil: I like 3, 4, 7
Anita: I like 3, 4, 6, and 7. How about if we combine 7 and 3. Just get Srimati to make garlands for your mom, dad and grandmother, and boutonnieres for some others.
Sunil: Great idea! Thanks for being patient with me and explaining things more.
Anita: I’m stressed too; thanks for working with me on this. My think my Dad will be happy, it was important for him.
Make sure to pick a time to revisit the plan and see if it needs any adjustments. Carrying through on your resolutions will build trust that you can work through your challenges.