Without a doubt, some of life’s greatest and sweetest joys can be found in a relationship. It affords us an opportunity to reflect the noble qualities latent in us. Being fixated on the growth, welfare, and joy of another is an enchanting pursuit. It literally brings out the best in us.

It can even be ecstatic at times. And when we experience this, we wish it’d just continue…Alas, reality intrudes, and conflicts often erupt, punctuating our reverie.

This is understandable when one thinks about it. The notion that two strangers can spend an earth-life together in close proximity without disagreements and conflicts seem a tad far-fetched…It seems like a fairy tale.

In reality, because each is a unique individual, with unique experiences, and perceptions, there are times when these different perceptions are not in sync leading to behavior that might cause disharmony. At times, it causes violence!

Now, let’s look at three simple suggestions for handling conflicts.

Reality is in the Eyes of the Beholder

The first, effective step to eliminating (or, at least mitigating) conflicts is the recognition of what’s above: That our inherent uniqueness leads to a subjective understanding of reality

We ought to keep our perceptions in perspective. We ought to be aware of the limitations of our perceptual abilities. We ought to be conscious of the truth that the world we see is not necessarily the one our partner sees (or, must see).

Rather than see this is as something which inevitably leads to disharmony, we can actually use it as a means of enriching our lives, by having the patience to strive to understand the other’s perceptions, even when we do not agree with it. At times, we act as if our perception is the sole and valid way of seeing an issue, and that puts our partners in a defensive or even adversarial position!

Patience and Understanding

If I were to ask you a question, now, I’d be able to predict your response. But, there are times that our actions are not congruent with our response. What’s the question: Are you perfect? You said “no”. Right? So, it stands to reason that on some issues we could be partly or wholly wrong. We often act as if everything we say is sacrosanct!

So, if we cultivate the patience to actually listen and understand our partner’s perceptions, we may discover strands in it, which we agree with, which will serve as a bridge to “getting them.” Even if we eventually disagree, the fact that we evinced patience and a genuine desire to understand them helps in maintaining harmony, because they can sense a positive vibration.

Avoid the Blame Game

Children are oft too ready to point accusing fingers at their playmates when things go wrong. And this is understandable. The sad thing is that even as adults some of us still retain this trait. 

When conflicts occur, instead of seeing it as a problem “we” (both partners) have, there’s often a tendency to hurriedly assume that the other person must be the cause, and we hasten to vilify them.

A relationship, if it’s to last, must be seen as a “team sport” where both parties are actively supporting each other, even when their shortcomings are revealed. The goal is not to point out the accused party; it’s to heal the wound.

To conclude, if we have the humility to acknowledge the truth that our perceptions are subjective and limited, if we are genuinely patient and strive to be understanding, and if we jettison the tendency to always seek who to blame (as if there’s a prize to be won), we’d start experiencing fewer conflicts in our relationships. 

Michael Newman