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Relationships

Time To Talk Or Time To Walk? The Best Ways To Resolve Relationship Conflicts

Not only are relationship conflicts normal, they are inevitable. “A serious relationship or marriage is a union of two distinct people who grew up in different families and, hence, bring with them different cultures, belief systems, values, goals, habits, and behavioral patterns,” says Aiza Tabayoyong, a family and relationship expert from The Love Institute, a pioneering company equipping couples, parents, and individuals with skills on how to have fulfilling relationships with those dearest to them. “For those who are in a heterosexual relationship, gender alone carries biological and psychological differences.” 

Additionally, it takes a lifetime to know all there is about someone; Aiza even compares it to studying in school. “When you start dating someone, your knowledge and awareness about them is equivalent to what a child knows during the preschool years,” she explains. “Once you get married, it’s as if you are entering elementary school. On your 25th anniversary, you have just completed high school. I would say that you only become an expert on your partner — the equivalent of a doctorate degree — when you have spent 50 years together.” 

“This is because once you start living together and form a family, you will be facing new situations that you otherwise would not have encountered as single people,” she adds. “Parenthood alone comes with a whole gamut of experiences that will require both parties to adjust each other’s temperaments and values. And it is during these times of adjusting that conflicts occur.”

Common causes of relationship conflict
Even the most compatible of couples will encounter conflict because of the following reasons:

  1. Triggers and issues stemming from childhood. “For example, if a partner lacked attention as a child and they feel they are also lacking attention in your marriage, that can be a trigger,” Aiza enumerates.
  2. Differences in values. This encompasses a wide variety of subjects, including isues pertaining to money, sex, spirituality, goals, and family roles. “Who has more say in the relationship? How will the children be raised?” Aiza enumerates. “How much sway do in-laws or extended family members have in decision-making? If these are not discussed properly before the marriage, conflict will occur.”
      
  3. Lack of communication, validation, and affirmation. “We’ve become so used to doing things a certain way when we were single that when our partner acts the opposite way and neither wants to compromise, that also poses a conflict,” says Aiza. 

When to ignore, talk it out, or walk away
Just because relationship conflicts are normal and inevitable does not mean you should give up on the idea of having a harmonious marriage. Unresolved relationship conflict is very stressful, and this stress can negatively affect the physical and mental health of both partners as well as any children that they may have. However, not all issues need to turn into conflicts; in the same vein, you should also know which conflicts are more grave and require more drastic measures. Aiza shares some ways you can tell the difference and what you can do to resolve them:
 

  1. When to let your partner be
    “It is not worth the conflict if the issue is about something bigger involving your partner and not about you,” Aiza assures. “In such cases, just let them express their emotions and do your best to love and understand them.”

An example would be the expression “Shut up.” During one of your conversations, you might have said it in jest, i.e. “Oh, shut up, that’s not true,” but your partner reacted like they were disrespected and got triggered. In such cases, instead of lashing back with “You’re so sensitive, I didn’t mean anything bad about it,” just pause and give them time to cool their tempers. Then when they are ready, gently ask if they want to talk about why they reacted in such a manner, so that you know not to do it again next time. Whether they want to talk about it or not, just make a mental note to refrain from saying “Shut up” next time.

  1. When to talk it out, work it out
    A relationship becomes problematic when the conflict stems from different values and you and your partner are triggered with deep feelings about certain issues.

A classic example would be matters involving money, i.e. when the two of you differ in how much to spend, what to spend on, how much money to lend to relatives or friends, etc. In such cases, you need to sit down and try to come up with a compromise. To do this, start by expressing your feelings, then hear out your partner. Use “I” statements such as “I feel __ when you spend on ___. But I want to understand why you are doing this, can you explain it to me?”

Then, as always, hear out your partner from a place of love and understanding, i.e. “Oh, so you were raised to think of money this way, which is why you did this and that. Now I see.” Finally, bring up options so that you can come up with compromises. That way, everyone comes out a winner.

  1. When to walk away

Every person should have a list of behaviors that they will not tolerate in a partner.  Ideally, these non-negotiables should have been seen before the marriage. For Aiza, examples of toxic behavior include extreme disrespect and abuse (whether physical, mental, or emotional), pathological reasons or disorders that you are not qualified to handle, or psychological incapacities. 

“It is sad if these things are discovered within the marriage. But if the love is strong and the other person wants to make it work, then try to work it out, maybe with the help of a professional,” Aiza advises. But if the partner continues to be in denial, resorts to gaslighting, or keeps falling back on toxic habits despite promises to the contrary, then you need to decide if this is still a relationship that you want to continue.

This is not to mean that you should file for separation, divorce, or annulment at the drop of a hat. “If you love each other, and you spent spent a lot of time getting to know your partner well enough during the dating process, if you knew what you were getting into and you took your marriage vows seriously, if you were not coerced into the relationship and there was love to begin with — then everything can be worked out,” Aiza assures. “But if you got married simply because you were swept off your feet or were coerced or pressured, or you never had the opportunity to really get to know your partner — then maybe all these conflicts are a sign that you were not meant to be. Do still try to work on the relationship, don’t give up over the smallest conflict; but if you’ve done everything you can and you still don’t see any change in your partner, then you’re probably better off ending it.”

“Do you have enough common values that you can adjust to differences in way of thinking? Is there good enough communication? Is there a good level of maturity?”

Aiza Tabayoyong

According to research conducted by relationship company The Gottman Institute, 69% of conflicts in a marriage can be resolved successfully. This is where Aiza stresses the importance of getting to know your partner well. “Do you have enough common values that you can adjust to differences in way of thinking? Is there good enough communication? Is there a good level of maturity?” she lists. “Marriage is forever, it is ‘I love you until death do us part’ and not ‘I love you only until it’s convenient and comfortable.’ And when the love is true, that will hopefully be a strong enough motivation to keep going and to keep fixing any relationship conflict.”

MindNation psychologists and WellBeing Coaches are available 24/7 to help you address past traumas or build better habits so that you can have better relationships with the ones you love. Book a teletherapy session now Facebook Messenger http://bit.ly/mn-chat , or email [email protected] 

Categories
Relationships

Strategies To Strengthen Your Relationships During The Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our lives in many ways,  including our interactions (and lack thereof) with the people close to us.

At home, the combination of financial stress, anxieties, the pressures of working from home, and restrictions in leisure outings are causing most of us to become irritable and short-tempered with our partner and our kids.

We’re missing our social groups — the co-workers, school friends, and yoga/running/spinning/hiking buddies — whom we usually turn to if we need to destress and decompress. 

Lastly, many of us have also started neglecting ourselves. After all, it’s hard to squeeze in self-care when there are just so many social, financial, psychological, and physical stressors surrounding the pandemic.

But it is precisely because of all these challenges that we need to take better care of the relationships we have with our loved ones and with ourselves. “Having healthy relationships can provide us with meaning and a sense of hope and support during difficult times like now,” says Aiza Tabayoyong, a family and relationship coach at The Love Institute, a pioneering company equipping couples, parents, and individuals with skills on how to have fulfilling relationships with those dearest to them. “The lockdown is actually giving us a unique opportunity to identify the things and people that are most important to us, so let’s use the time to get to know them better and enjoy them.”

    Below are some ways we can strengthen and support our relationships:

1. With our spouse or partner

  • Schedule weekly date nights. If you are at home, find a corner in the house where you and your partner can be secluded and have a romantic moment together, whether it’s just binge-watching your favorite Netflix show or having a nice meal. And whether your dates are at home or done virtually, make sure you use the time to have fun, focus on each other, and build each other up. “Do not use this time to write down a list of what errands to do, what repairs need to be done, or discuss problems in the relationship,” instructs Aiza. “Have a separate day to talk about home management concerns or relationship issues.”
  • Frequently tell the other person how much you love and appreciate them, whether it’s verbally, through text messages (even if your home workstations are just a few feet away from each other), or by leaving little notes in their drawers.
  • Know your partner’s love language to make it easier and more efficient to meet their needs.

2. With your children (if any)

Just like with your partner, schedule one-on-one time with your child. Make the conversations light and fun. “This is the time to listen to them and be curious about their interests. Don’t use this time for scolding them or pushing them in the direction that you want,” Aiza reminds. “The stress of remote learning has unavoidably turned your parent-child relationship into a teacher-child interaction, so you need to balance this shift by letting your child see that you are still fun to be around. When that happens, your connection becomes stronger and you have more leverage to better influence them.”

3. With your friends

“Once a week or when your schedule permits, schedule a get-together with people who can lift you up during these tough times, either through virtual platforms or at restaurants that provide al fresco dining options,” advises Aiza. Maintaining ties with friends is crucial because they provide you a safe space to decompress from the stresses of home. It also assures you that you are not the only ones with problems, so make sure each person is given an equal opportunity to vent his or her concerns. 

4. With yourself

This is the most important relationship of all. “Nourishing yourself is actually prerequisite to nurturing all your other connections,” says Aiza. “Make time for self-care, and remember that it is not selfish. Adopt the mindset that ‘I need this, I deserve this, and doing this will benefit everyone else.’” 

  • Remember to get enough sleep and to eat well. 
  • Ask your partner or eldest child to give you massages or haircuts
  • Schedule regular quiet time. “Use it to do deep breathing exercises, to meditate, or for prayer time to connect and communicate with your god,” suggests Aiza.

Self-care also goes beyond meeting one’s physical needs for rest. It involves looking beyond the bad days we experience and viewing ourselves in a kinder light. So remember to: 

  • Reframe negative self-talk. “Always remind yourself that you are valuable as you are, and that you deserve the same kind of love you give others,” says Aiza.
  • Practice self-compassion. “Instead of being your harshest critic and saying things like ‘I’m so stupid,’ or ‘I can’t do this,’ replace these statements with ‘Oh well, that’s not my strength, I’ll just find someone to help me,’” advises Aiza.
  • Celebrate your achievements. “If you don’t hear enough affirmation from other people (probably because they are going through something themselves), you have to give it to yourself,” Aiza suggests. “Look in the mirror and tell yourself ‘I am amazing, I am capable, I am loved.’”  

Maintaining relationships may seem time-consuming, but the key to success is to make sure you plan properly. “Having a calendar will help you properly schedule and balance your must-do’s for home and work and your dates with the people most important in your life, including yourself,” advises Aiza. 

If you are feeling isolated, overwhelmed, or need advice on how to manage your relationships better, feel free to reach out to MindNation’s Care Hotline on FB Messenger. The FREE service is available 24/7, 365 days a year,  and rest assured that all conversations will be kept completely confidential.