“Maybe you can’t see the storm that lies just ahead. But I can. Believe me, it’s there.”
Confronting issues openly and honestly can be difficult. Many, like me are afraid of the reaction they’ll get from the person they are confronting. With that fear firmly embedded in one’s psyche, looking the other way and acting like the problem isn’t there becomes the easy way out. Or so it seems. Looking the other way really doesn’t make matters easier at all. In fact, it makes them worse. Problems often just don’t go away without some action.
I haven’t faced some very big issues and challenges that have been in my life for too long now. But I see clearly that I can’t let these problems linger. In my situation the problems have grown and the result is more and more hurt to me. I feel fear of the reaction I expect to receive. My fears I know after giving it long thought are grounded in reality and not based on my imagination. To get myself beyond this fear, I will have to have the necessary support around me to protect me. With my support in place I will face my problems. I must remember that storms don’t last forever. Eventually the sun does shine again, and life was nourished by the rains. I will come out of this a better person.
In December, 2007 I blogged about a quote I had just then read from Alan Cohen, “All conflict ends in love.” I wondered at first, “Is this stated as an affirmation?” No, some lofty, spiritual, existential ideal I was willing to bet after dedicating the quote only minimal brain power.
I blogged about Alan Cohen’s quote and honestly, I took the easy way out. I asked my readers for their feedback and insights. You could have heard my “F4” key stick on my keyboard during the day, weeks and months following that post. Silence had fallen across the “blog lands” of WordPress, Blogger, and Yahoo and beyond. Does the concept of love as the end result of conflict seem so impossible to most of us? Or were we all just too burnt out to ponder such a topic in the midst of our hurried and harried holiday season?
Am I too late for Christmas in July then? No matter, I’m ready to share my thoughts on Alan Cohen’s quote, “All conflict ending in love.”
It has been said that “all conflicts are the result of unrealistic, uncommunicated or unmet expectations.” It is well understood by humankind that there are both good and bad means of solving conflict. The bad means of ending conflict includes avoidance, hurt, frustration and unresolved issues. The good means of coming to the end of a conflict enjoys greater trust, love, understanding and a mutually satisfactory resolution.
These are the tools I subscribe to, and those to which I make my best effort to use with the goal as such that “my conflict ends in love”
No harm to anyone involved. No physical or emotional hurt or abuse. This is non-negotiable. If a conflict can’t be discussed, argued or fought without hurt being waged against someone, there are more serious challenges within the relationship that must be addressed right away. Through counseling, a good therapist can get to the core problem causing the need to hurt one another and with the partners, find the tools to confront conflict in a healthy way.
Don’t make threats/ take the relationship off the bargaining table. Remove any old tools that may invoke one to say, “If you don’t do this I’m not going to stay here tonight” or, “If you can’t do this I’m leaving you.” Try to internalize that, individual rights are secondary to the overall health of the partnership. The generally accepted definition of” love” is, “A feeling of strong attachment, induced by that which delights or commands admiration; preeminent kindness or devotion to another; affection; tenderness; especially, devoted attachment to, or tender or passionate affection for, one’s chosen mate or partner in life. “ It has been suggested that a healthy relationship is one where both partners understand that they have essentially given up their individual rights in service of their partner or mate. As with most aspects of a relationship, this only works when both individuals are working under these same assumptions, constantly attempting to out-serve the other.
Don’t bring up the past. In the end and when love is at work, there is no one keeping score of the number of “transgressions” or wrongs against either party in a relationship. It has become quite commonplace for the covert score keeper of this game to hurl harsh words of accusation perhaps even time this verbal onslaught for a date in the future; simply to inflict as much emotional hurt as possible. Many of us have entered into committed relationships and there is a adage that it is best to enter into a relationship with our eyes wide open, and to commit to our partner with our eyes half shut.” Filter each situation or grievance with one’s partner on its own and without pouring upon one’s partner a deluge of accusations, confrontations or criticism.
Don’t attack the underpinning of the relationship. Beginning a confrontation about an overdrawn checking account by prefacing the argument with “you don’t trust me,” or worse yet, “you don’t love me,” inflates a common, every day type of issue and inflates it to a drama which attacks the basis of one’s relationship. It causes a flashpoint and the relationship may be consumed in firestorm of hurtful generalization.
Don’t attempt to build consensus or support from family or friends. A committed relationship provides our protection of our partner. That protection is not effectively demonstrated when one goes out to friends and/or family disclosing what should be the private details of a challenge; details that are for the ears of the partners involved, only. There should be no exception. When one or both partners seek out the support of friends and family they are attempting to create allies. Through careless disclosure and one’s attempt to build support as though the discord were a team sport, any potential support to the other partner in the future may be jeopardized or destroyed. It is possible that one’s sense of betrayal and humiliation may be so strong that the individual no longer feels safe within the friendships or family relationships and becomes isolated.
Find tools that work now: Get to work with your partner, finding the tools to have ready in your “emotional tool belt” that will help ensure that your conflict will end in love; that is, the outcome will be productive and safe. Let go any tools carried forward into adulthood from childhood that no longer are effective. Coping mechanisms that worked as children will most likely be unhealthy and hinder effective resolution of conflict. If one is aware of a tendency to interrupt or talk over one’s partner, employ the use of whatever means necessary to ensure that the partner talking has a safe, uninterrupted span of time to do so. Some therapists still use a “talking stick”; the individual holding the stick has “the floor.” The other person must sit silently and listen until they have the stick. If one partner needs 10 minutes of cool-down time before discussing the issue, make allowances for that.
Don’t exaggerate/polarize: Make every attempt not to use general terms such as “always” or “never,” which are seldom ever accurate and serve only to polarize the conversation. The tendency in any disagreement or argument is to take an extreme position to emphasize one’s point. The result of this, one partner then takes their position to the extreme opposite side, making it much harder to find any sort of middle ground.
Does my relationship with my partner imbibe this entire set of tools perfectly? Certainly not, as we are imperfect humans who with our best effort are attempting to be in a relationship with our partner. Hopefully that relationship has a healthy basis. To many, even to me, the thought or mere suggestion of conflict causes varying degrees of discomfort. From my experience however, I have come to know that if I am prepared with the proper and healthy tools, a situation involving conflict and grievance can result with both partners respecting and loving the other, possibly more than before.