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Getting Past the Arguments - an article on resolving conflict in relationships

One of the hardest things to handle in ... is ... While a good and fair fight can clear the air and help you to feel closer to your lover, many fights are just hurtful and ...

One of the hardest things to handle in a
relationship is conflict. While a good
and fair fight can clear the air and
help you to feel closer to your lover,
many fights are just hurtful and
destructive. Fights that never go
anywhere, that are repeated year after
year, or that leave you feeling awful
about yourself are not going to help
your relationship. Those are the kinds
of fights we need to take another look
at, and find out what is going on
underneath. This is true for any
conflict that doesn't feel right, not
just those you have with your lover.

With most fights, there are layers of
what we mean, feel, intend, hope for,
and believe, and what we actually say.
We may only say a little of how we feel,
or we may even say the opposite of how
we're feeling on a much deeper level
than the surface. Problems arise when we
don't come from the deeper levels.

Some people think that the top layer of
what they feel and think is all that
there is, yet they feel something's
missing in their relationship. Others
know how they feel but instead of
stating their feelings as their own,
they blame how they feel on their lover,
leading to hurt feelings and arguing
that goes nowhere. This is often the
time that people call it quits on a

Many break-ups occur because we do not
know how to get to our inner depth, or
getting to it, how to share it. What we
want to say isn't what comes out of our
mouths. We argue about something
meaningless in order to get space from
our lover, rather than feel the anxiety
or fear we may have about setting
boundaries or looking at what we need.
We argue to feel more alive, instead of
looking at what is missing in our life.
We argue about what our lover spent
money on, rather than face our own
issues about money. We argue as a way to
control our lover, rather than face our
fear of being controlled.

Regardless of the content of the
argument, until we are prepared to
express and respect our lover's deeper
feelings, beliefs, and meanings (and
s/he respects ours), very little change
can take place.

We can work around our lover's
"sensitive points," expect them to do
the same for us, and make compromises,
but how far does that really take us?
While problem-solving can help,
particularly in the immediate future,
often it isn't enough for the long run.
As long as the deeper issues remain
unaddressed, our relationship will be
flattened, soured, or lost to
meaningless fights.

So how do you get underneath the
arguments? By being vulnerable and
risking being as open and as honest
about yourself as you can with your
lover. Take anything you argue about and
ask yourself what is upsetting you.
Usually people will respond with answers
that are about their lovers - s/he
spends too much money, s/he is
defensive, s/he doesn't listen to me.
Now try asking yourself the following

*what about that bothers you?
*how do you feel about it?
*how do you react to it, and what does it
mean to you?
*what if anything are you afraid of?
*what do you believe it means about you or your relationship?
*does it remind you of anyone?

Try not to get bogged down in
intellectual answers. Even if you know
the answers, see if you can connect to
your feelings about it and notice
whether any other thoughts,feelings,
associations, or memories come to you
spontaneously. Sometimes the best stuff
just suddenly occurs to us.

Next, find an opportunity when you and
your lover aren't rushed or distracted,
and share how you are feeling about the
issue. When mentioning something about
her/his behavior that affects you,
phrase it within your own experience
("When I think that you are not
listening to me I feel...I then worry reminds me of...which feels...
to me).

Even when you want to mention something
that your lover does, focus on you and
your deeper responses. You may want to
ask for something specific ("Could we
set aside times to listen to each
other?") which your lover can consider,
but initially it is usually best to have
you and your lover listen to and
understand each others' deeper

You might be tempted to leap to a
solution, but this is only the
beginning. If you settle on a solution
too quickly, you could miss something
that still needs to be unearthed.

The listener's job is to listen
attentively and to verbalize
understanding for the other's feelings,
regardless of whether or not the
listener agrees with her/his lover's
perception of the events. For example,
maybe you think that you're the one
who's always listening to your lover,
and it is s/he who doesn't listen to
you. It's okay that you do not agree
with her/his version of reality, but for
now, offer only your understanding of
how s/he feels and what it means to
her/him. It is important that you
suspend your difference of opinion and
only offer understanding.

When you're finished with that, switch
roles. Feel free, as the one who just
listened, to say somethng like "When I
hear you say that, I feel...because I
believe that I do listen....This reminds
me of...and I feel...and I don't know
what else to do. I feel that you don't
listen to me. When this happens I
feel...." It's important to not argue
about who does or doesn't listen, or
what you each do, but rather, the
original speaker should now listen and
offer understanding for how it must
feel. Keep going back and forth and see
what happens. You may not notice
anything for a while, but you might. If
you don't, try not to worry or rush the
process; something usually shifts over
time, especially if you keep going
deeper. You never know what you might
discover - it may be a completely
different issue than you originally
thought. Only by staying with your
deeper feelings and reactions will you
discover what is underneath the

By each of you truly understanding the
others' perspective without judgement,
you'll be able to move through this
barrier in your relationship. Stick
with the formula, even if it feels
unnaturalArticle Submission, and you may find that the
two of you are laughing about what
started the whole disagreement.

Article Tags: Argue About, Doesn't Listen

Source: Free Articles from


Kali Munro, M.Ed., is an online
therapist with a private practice in
Toronto. She provides free online
resources including self-help articles,
e-books, self-quizzes, and inspirational
quotes and poetry at her website,
She facilitates an online discussion
board too.
Her specialties include
relationships, sexual abuse, lesbians,
and gay men, dissociation and PTSD.
You can email her at

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