This is an excerpt from an original article posted on Think Simple Now titled, “How to Keep a Relationship.”
It is inevitable that partners are going to have different opinions, and everyone has days where their emotions can get the better of them. The problem is not that we have conflicts with our partner, the problem lies in the way we handle the situation. When our egos get in the way, our mind becomes clouded and we end up making mountains out of mole hills.
Photo by Meredith Farmer
Some of us use these conflicts as an opportunity to answer: Is my relationship stronger than the problem? They use the situation as a way to measure the relationship stability. They fail to see that this question itself causes conflict, since it forces comparison. Instead, a more effective question to ask is: Are we mature enough as people to resolve the conflict with consideration, awareness and grace?
The following are some pointers that have proven to be effective in our relationship:
1. Awareness – Bringing awareness into the situation. Become the observer of your thoughts, your emotions, your needs, and your ego. Ask yourself,
- What is it I want at this moment?
- Is what I want from my heart or filtered by my ego?
- Will getting what I want help me become a better person?
- Will getting what I want bring happiness and fulfillment to me and those around me?
- What are the most important aspects in my life? Does getting this fit into my values?
2. Express, Don’t Suppress - Speak candidly and freely. Yes, the truth can hurt, but if you take responsibility for your words and speak with respect for the other person, the honestly and sincerity from your message will shine through. The other person will deeply appreciate you for it. Honestly not only releases your mental load, but also helps mutual understanding.
3. Recognize the Crying Baby – By bringing awareness into a situation, we will get better at recognizing when our partner is in thecrying baby state. When they are in a baby state, it is highly beneficial if we remain calm. Don’t take what they say personally during this state, they don’t mean it.
4. How to Calm the Baby - The crying baby state is a primal state. We become irrational and unreasonable. We feel like we’re a little kid again crying for attention. With this in mind, what can our partner do to calm us when we ourselves are in a baby state? Sit down with your partner ahead of time to openly discuss what would make them feel better when they are this baby state? For example, to calm the baby in me, I would love to be held and caressed. To calm the baby in Adam, he wants to be focused on deep breath to draw out of that state of mind. What will calm the baby in you?
5. Pattern Interrupt – When we repeatedly do something, it becomes a habit. Instead of giving in to a comfortable action that doesn’t give you the result you want, interrupt that pattern by doing something (shockingly) unrelated or random. When you feel yourself going down a negative spiral, get up and do 10 jumping jacks with exaggerated movements, make funny faces, do a happy dance around the living room. This will help to bounce you out of that state of mind.
6. “Look into my Eyes” – If you see that your partner is in an irrational baby state or is upset, ask them to look into your eyes, even for just 30 seconds. When they are looking at your eyes, look back into their eyes and imagine passing an infinite amount of love towards them. Through their eyes, look for their soul. You may be upset too, just surrender to the moment, take some deep breaths, and focus only on their eyes and how beautiful they are.
7. Breathing – Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Take a few deep breaths and continue to breathe normally. Continue to do this for at least 5-10 minutes. Draw your focus into your lungs expanding and contracting. Feel the energy the air brings. As you change your focus, you will also change your mindset.
8. Ask yourself: “Am I arguing so that I could win the battle?” – If the answer is yes, ask yourself whether winning this battle will make a difference in your life in 40 years? How about tomorrow?
9. Ask yourself: “What is it about myself that I don’t like?” – Oftentimes, the arguments we get into are simply an extension of ourselves, though we may not realize it until we reflect at a later time. When we find ourselves jumping quickly into judging other people, we are really projecting what we dislike about ourselves on to that person. Observing our thoughts and behaviors toward others can expose our own insecurities on the subject matter.
Photo by Katsuaki Shoda
10. Try on Different Shoes - Imagine yourself in your partner’s shoes. To the best of your ability, feel the pain the other person is experiencing. How does it feel? What is your new perspective like? For a few seconds, pretend that “Me” does not exist, and that you are now the other person. Experience their words and feelings as if your own. This simple exercise helps to give you compassion and consideration towards another’s point of view.
11. “How it made me feel.” - When communicating your points of view, always speak in terms of how something made you feel. Example, “When I didn’t hear from you, it made me feel that I was not important.”. Expressing how something made us feel instead of what we think they did wrong, reduces their instinctive need to feel defensive. When people are not on the fence about something, they are more likely to listen and be more willing to resolve an issue.
12. Step Out, Cool Off – Go to a different room, separate yourself for a few minutes to gain perspective and clarity. Do some deep breathing exercises. Re-group yourself and bring awareness into the situation. Regain a clear grasp of what is most important to you, and reevaluate whether the “fight” is worth battling.
13. Listen – Listen to the other person. Really listen to them. Give them the respect that you would like to have, give them a chance to speak without judging them. Surrender to the moment and just bethere. Listen to them as if you were listening to yourself. Listen to them in the way you want to be listened to.
14. Forgive & Accept – Remember that inside, we are all good people. Really, we were all born innocent, loving, kind and generous. See the light in them, as you too have that light within yourself.
15. Apologize & Explain – Say I’m sorry and show that you mean it by explaining why you are sorry. Don’t be shy or let your pride get in the way. Life is short, do the right thing, instead of the thing right for your ego.
16. Relinquish Defensiveness – Relinquish the need to be defensive. Listen when the other person express their feelings. Don’t treat their expression as criticism, listen with acceptance and a genuine desire to love them. This is not a power struggle, it is a conversation. Your partner’s expression of their feelings and needs has nothing to do with you. And don’t tell the other person, “Stop being so defensive”.