It may come as a surprise to some, but conflict is essential to healthy relationships. Without having conflict, we miss out on vital opportunities to learn about each other and renew our relationship.


But conflict does not have to mean nasty fights, disrespectful treatment of your partner or frosty or no communication for days or even weeks. Conflict can be productive and even transformative to your relationship.


Here is #1 Rule of Effective Communication during Conflict that will help you prevent unpleasant escalations and instead have a productive conversation with your partner: AVOID FINGER-POINTING WHEN YOU BRING UP AN ISSUE YOU WANT TO DISCUSS.


Phrases that contain "You" + negative statements feel criticising and evoke defensiveness.

What does it look like in practice? Most couples for not knowing better start their arguments with somethings like "You never listen to me" or "Why are the dishes not done yet?". Worse even, with emotions running high, you might hear "You are just so selfish!" or "You can never get anything right".


While saying something like that may feel justified to you in the moment, think for a second how it might feel to hear that? For most of us, I doubt this would feel good and make you want to listen. To the opposite, you are likely to fight back and respond with something like "That's just not true!" or "No, it's you who never listens!". So basically you get defensive, feeling attacked and treated unfairly.


So what do I do instead? Instead of "finger-pointing", start with "I" and talk about what you feel and what you need. Avoid "You" at all cost, unless it's a positive statement, such as "You are a good father". Also avoid generalising words such as "always" or "never" as they amplify the negativity and in many cases make your statements untrue as well: Even if your partner is acting selfishly, most likely they don't do this "always", all the time, right?


Generalising words such as "always" or "never" amplify the negativity and in many cases make your statements untrue.

So, here is a specific example how to move away from criticising finger-pointing to a more productive start of your conversation:


INSTEAD OF

"Why do you never do the dishes?"

USE

"I feel quite annoyed that the dishes are yet again not done.

Could you please help me with them, so that we can spend more time together in the evening?"


Try this relatively simple communication technique and see how your partner responds. Most likely, much more positively and helpfully than you might expect.

Ok, let’s start with a common relationship myth – All couples are different in their problems.

It’s completely normal for us to think that every relationship and its “issues” are unique – and it’s true in the sense that each story involves different, with different life stories and decorations.


May be that’s what Lev Tolstoy was thinking when he said in his world-famous novel “Anna Karenina” that all unhappy families were different in their distinct miseries, but all happy families were the same.


Funnily enough, according to research, the exact opposite is likely to be true: there are myriads of ways for a couple to be happy, but when it comes to being miserable in a relationship, we all have pretty much the same problems.


And this just one myth about relationships – and in this post I’ll share with you 9 more.


1. Quid Pro Quo. Some people view a relationship as a contract, where party A does something in exchange for something party B does for them. Using stereotypes, an example would be: The husband brings flowers or another present, the wife feels she needs to make a nice meal or offer intimacy. Well, such thinking does indeed take place in some relationships – in the unhappy ones. The term for such behaviour is “emotional accounting”. In a successful, happy relationship both partners want to give, not to take. There is no expectation in exchange for an act of caring and love – as the giving itself is fulfilling for a partner. So, if suddenly find yourself or your partner counting the “beans” in your relationship, it’s time to ask – what is wrong?


2. Monogamy is for women. This is probably one of the oldest myth about men and women. And yes, many men want to have many sexual partners during their life time and many do. But so do many women: the statistics show that with reliable contraception and improved work and income opportunities, women are having affairs nearly as often as men.


3. Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. What is meant here is that men are more task-orientated, are warriors and not emotional; and that women live in the realm of senses and are far from being task-orientated. I think anyone who is reading this can find examples in their lives showing that this kind of thinking is simply untrue. Both men and women are task-orientated, especially in families where they have to think about finances, job security, schooling, social life and so on. In most families even, the woman is the commander-in-chief, planning and organizing the day-to-day activities of the family. And looking at the emotions, men do cry. While the emotions men and women experience more often may be different, they still remain emotions. So, saying that men are unemotional is not true – they may just be conditioned to not expressing them as freely as women do.


4. If one partner dominates the other, it’s unhealthy. Some cultures are obsessed with equality. Other cultures love hierarchies with strict rules about authority and societal roles. Both types can be very successful and have a reason why they run things how they do. Dominance structures in social groups minimize conflict and offer stability, especially when the situations are complex and fast-moving. Knowing who is in charge can make life easier as you don’t need to negotiate every time a couple needs to make an important decision. That’s why relationships where one partner dominates exist and are even desired by some. And they can be successful, if both partners, especially the non-dominant one, feel the decisions made are fair and there is an emotional connection between the partners.


5. Poor problem-solving ruins relationships. If this were true, top managers and their spouses would be the happiest married couples. The reality is that relationships are not built on finding solutions to life’s challenges, they are built on feeling connected to each other. The majority of couples problems are never solved – the success of a relationship depends on how the couple goes about the perpetual nature of these gridlock issues. I like saying to my couples – when you decide to tie your life with someone else, you “marry” not only into their family, but also into their problems.


6. Couples that come from dysfunctional families will have dysfunctional relationships. This thinking suggests that a) our origins alone determine who we are and b) people never change. There is a tonne of evidence that neither of these two suggestions are correct. Yes, we may bring into our relationship unresolved issues from our families of origin, but as mentioned before, it’s not about what the issue is but rather how do we go about it. Of course, childhood wounds are very important, however the majority of disruptive conflicts between a couple are about immediate, day-to-day issues that can be managed without years of individual therapy.


7. It’s normal that over time partners appreciate each other less. Research found that, on the contrary, the longer lasting a relationship is, the more important the partners are to each other. The appreciation of things is higher as well, as the relationship puts good and bad things in perspective. Also surviving inevitable life crises and relationship bums makes a couple value the togetherness more. You can think about your relationship like of an investment: The more – and longer – you invest into it, the higher its value is for you.


8. High expectations are the problem. The idea is that if you have high expectations, you get easily disappointed by your partner – or simply can’t find one. Therefore, to be happy in a relationship you should lower your expectations. Again, quite opposite is true: People are treated according to their expectations. If you expect to be treated well, you will be treated well. And those with lower expectations simply get less.




9. Affairs are the main reason for divorce. Absolutely, affairs do often end in a divorce and cause a major distress to a couple. However, affairs rarely happen out of nowhere. More commonly, they have been years in making and are a clear sign that the relationship is lacking closeness and friendship. People get divorced when they no longer feel emotionally connected and live separate lives. Most affairs are not about sex, but rather finding someone who offers affection and understanding.

 

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