Fighting and conflict in relationships can feel horrible.
So it’s not surprising that most couples feel like it’s a set back to their progress. It’s such a common way of looking at it because, really, it seems to shake the stability and safety we rely on. Even though ‘needs’ seem to be a bad word in our society the truth is we NEED our relationships. (I mean all relationships here but especially intimate ones)
Our confidence and safety in the world, depends on the stability of our relationships not in a dependent way but an interdependent way. It’s possible to love and be close to someone without giving parts of yourself away. As well, it’s possible to be independent without losing the relationship. If you want to understand healthy needs in relationships read Dr Sue Johnson’s book Love Sense it’s brilliant.
Getting a different perspective with curiosity and questions
After having a big fight, our perspective is often very narrow and influenced by the hurt or anger we’re feeling. Even if we’re talking about the other person, we’re seeing them through the filter of our emotions. In other words, we’re very personally focused. But I encourage you to take a broader view and get curious.
You may be tempted to answer the following questions for your partner or focus on their behaviour or perceived needs. We think we know what they’re thinking, but stick to your own feelings, behaviour and needs to get the best results. (otherwise, it’s mind-reading and that’s a whole other blog)
Questions for after a big fight
1) What was the fight really about? Not the content and words but the underlying needs and wants. For example — were you feeling unimportant and wanting to be seen, heard or respected? Were you feeling worried and needing reassurance from your partner? Or, were you feeling overwhelmed and needing acceptance or help?
2) Was this something that may have built up? Often couples will let the ‘little’ things go because they don’t seem important and they don’t want to dampen the good mood, but these moments can start piling up like little resentment stones until they burst.
3) What have I been hiding, avoiding or not sharing in order to ‘keep the peace’?
4) How can we work together? What can each of us do? This could feel challenging so make it easy and do-able for you. And taking a broader perspective will always see the situation as a possibility for growth and improvement. It doesn’t mean you’re broken or set back, it just means you’ve reached a place where to grow more you both need to learn something and gain awareness.
Getting closer to someone means constantly facing and removing the blocks to love you’ve set up for yourself – that at one time protected you, but are now blocking you from experiencing the love you want.
Liz Coleman, RTC, is a Registered Therapeutic Counsellor based in Surrey, BC. She specializes in anxiety, anger, insecurity, and relationship problems. If you have any questions about this article or would like to schedule an appointment, please call Ms. Coleman at (604) 809-8947 or use the convenient form on her Contact page.