By Tracey Lickfelt
Every person has had a disagreement with someone they love, but that does not mean it is the end of the road or the relationship.
People have different opinions, and it is perfectly normal and OK to disagree with the people you love — even your partner.
Though disagreements are a common part of life, less common are shared insights about how to navigate conflict in a healthy way.
The important thing to remember about having disagreements is that it is you and your partner against the problem, not you versus your partner.
No two couples are the same, but some of the more common situations they disagree about are finances, parenting styles, communication problems and spending time together. These are normal everyday conflicts, but making sure they happen in a healthy way is the more difficult part.
Unhealthy disagreements may look like placing blame, making assumptions, bringing up past issues, name-calling, controlling the outcome or avoiding the conversation altogether.
Here are some healthy practices to use the next time you and your partner disagree:
-Acknowledge feelings. It is so important to listen to your partner and acknowledge their point of view. Use “I” statements to express your feelings without placing blame on the other person for what you’re thinking and feeling.
-Reassure partner. It’s important to remind your partner that a disagreement does not define your relationship. Reassure your partner you are there for them and that it’s OK to have different opinions in your relationship.
-Take a pause. If the conversations get heated or you are finding it harder to communicate with your partner, try to take a timeout. Try not to use this as an avoidance technique, but make sure to return to the conversation once you’ve had time to process and breathe.
-Meet in the middle. In a healthy relationship, compromise can be a useful tool to resolve a disagreement. Both partners get something they want, and they learn to work together to figure that out. It can become unhealthy when one partner never gets anything they want.
-Reflect together. Either during or after your disagreement, take the time to be with your partner and reflect on the conversations you’ve had. Discuss what went well and what didn’t go well. Notice behaviors and patterns you can improve on. Say things like, “I noticed I blamed you. I’m going to work on that.”
-Seek help. If you find yourself stuck and unable to move past current struggles with your partner, there is always the option of going to couples counseling.
Sometimes, it can be helpful to talk things out with a professional to gain other coping and communication skills in your relationship.
Partners that can learn to communicate in healthy ways will be more likely to find healthy ways to disagree with each other. Be aware that it might take time to develop these techniques, so don’t get discouraged.
If you or someone you know is in need of healthy communication skills, Centerstone can help. For information, call 877-467-3123.
Tracey Lickfelt is vice president of outpatient and engagement services for Centerstone. Today is National Couples Day, and one of the most challenging things about being in a relationship is finding healthy ways to disagree with your partner. In this column, Lickfelt provides insight into some practices to help navigate disagreements while maintaining accountability and respect.