Here’s a novel idea for Valentine’s Day: Embrace the challenges in your relationship. We all know that relationships aren’t just about romance and the perfect connection. The most valuable relationships include conflict and disagreement. And sometimes they can even be downright stressful. Yet these moments of tension and frustration provide opportunities for us to come together, to evolve, to improve our communication, and, yes, to create the partnership of our dreams. That’s why conflict can be the key to a harmonious relationship. That’s not to say constant stress or chaos are healthy for a partnership, but the truth is that conflict can be a catalyst for growth, deeper connection, and understanding, especially when we are mutually respectful, loving and open to the differences in each other’s feelings, opinions, and perspectives. When we avoid talking about differences or frustrations, we do our relationship a disservice. On the other hand, when we learn to hear, listen to, and respect our partner through the difficult emotions, we experience deeper love for one another and for ourselves.
This Valentine’s Day, honor your partner by celebrating not only the connection and similarities in your relationship, but also the challenges. By honoring the conflict, we grow, we evolve, and we even, sometimes, change. Honor that growth and evolution. Commit to an authenticity and safety within your relationship by approaching conflicts with respect and understanding. Here’s how:
- Practice Gratitude: Working through a misunderstanding is something we do with someone we care about because we’re committed to healing the relationship. Keep this in mind as you decide whether or not you are ready for the conflict in the first place. A good rule to keep in mind is “don't confront if you won’t commit.” Think of your conflict as an opportunity for greater awareness and understanding, and try to appreciate the opportunity.
- Listen Carefully: Allow your partner to share his or her perspective completely. Be prepared to hear him out, and expect the same in return. Try hard to understand your partner’s point of view, but don’t worry if you cannot. Knowing that someone has really heard you, and that they understand you, is a powerful way for people to connect with one another. Understanding does not mean agreement. You can thoroughly understand a friend whether or not you agree with their perspective.
- Be Creative: Generate a new kind of resolution. Try to think past the confines of “he-said, she-said,” or “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Consider that yet a third solution may exist to meet both of your needs, and work together to figure out what it is. Agree to leave some things in the past, unsolved, and move on.