Communication: Transform Conflicts Into Healing Opportunities

Years ago I saw a couple who had been together for over a decade. They had a great relationship in general but had friction because she had said something to him that had deeply hurt and offended him. He was so upset with her for reasons that were obvious to him but baffling to her.

When she told him she didn’t understand why he was so angry and therefore how to make it right, he couldn’t believe that she didn’t know and couldn’t find words to explain something that he felt could only mean that she was blatantly disregarding him.

I slowed them down by helping them to hear each other and get it cleared up but I learned something extremely valuable that day about those who are nearest and dearest to us, especially our partners.

When you fall in love with someone and they fall in love with you, there is a sense of finally having found someone who gets you in a profound way, in a way that you can’t or don’t have to explain. An assumption is then often made that, because your partner understands you so deeply in so many important ways, that he or she gets you in ALL ways. We know, of course, rationally that this is impossible, yet that doesn’t stop us from believing it and we almost forget that we are different creatures.

• Even those who love and understand us most can have different triggers or perceptions or lines in the sand.

• Next time someone you love hurts your feelings or gets upset by something you say or do (or don’t say or do that they wish you did!), give him or her the benefit of the doubt.

• Slow down and make sure you are really hearing what is being said by paraphrasing kindly and asking for clarification.

• By making the assumption that you and your partner both win by everyone getting their needs met, you are more likely to let go of being “right” about your story and you can then find productive solutions. Is it more important to be right that your partner betrayed you OR to let go of that story and pain and maybe see that you have different needs and interpretations? This conflict/misunderstanding can be an opportunity to help you to learn how to better protect and care for each other.

Taking the time to really listen to each other and assume that you both want to support each other will continue to deepen the intimacy and sense of connection between you. At the same time, it reminds us that we are all individuals. That is what keeps relationships interesting even if it is also what challenges us.