Relationship Conflict Management
The Art of Fair Fighting Part Three
Written by Randi Fine, Narcissistic Abuse Expert
Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine
Through relationship conflict management we are able to solve issues in a controlled, dignified manner, though not all problems are easily solved. The more complex the issue, the more attempts it may take to work through it.
Some people require more time and space than others to come to terms with an issue or reach an agreeable compromise. As long as each party is up front and honest about his or her needs, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for a specified amount of leeway.
The needs and feelings of both parties must be considered when resolving a disagreement. Each partner must feel understood, cared for, and secure in the relationship before a mutually satisfactory compromise can be attained.
Compromise requires flexibility and options. For every solvable problem there are several solutions. Each partner should bring a few ideas to the table and then evaluate each other’s proposals by discussing the pros and cons of them. This is a brainstorming process that allows for the levity of humor. It is much easier to work as a team when both parties are laughing.
Before finalizing the compromise, be certain that both parties are comfortable with the terms and that no one will be left with residual bad feelings. Understand that there is rarely a “perfect” compromise; one party usually has to give in a little more than the other. That said, one partner should never have to give in more often than the other one does or make sacrifices. That may sound confusing if you have always believed that sacrifice and compromise is the same thing.
Some partners claim that they sacrifice to make their relationship work. To sacrifice means to forfeit something one person considers valuable for something he believes is of greater importance.
Sacrifices in relationships involve giving up an important aspect of the self to benefit someone else, and never getting it back. That depletes the one who is sacrificing and endows the other. The balance of the relationship is thrown off more and more with each sacrifice.
If you are always the one asking for forgiveness, even when you have done nothing wrong, you may be on the losing end of a manipulative, controlling relationship. This may indicate a deeper problem that fair-fighting skills and compromise cannot address.
Though intrinsically different, it may be difficult to distinguish where a sacrifice lets off and a compromise begins. That is because, conceptually, a very thin line divides the two actions. More simply put, when one person gives in more than the other it is called a sacrifice. When both parties mutually sacrifice it is no longer a sacrifice but a compromise.
A compromise is a settlement of differences in which each side makes a concession that keeps the overall balance of the relationship equal. Neither party gives up anything. They come to an agreement that is mutually satisfying. Compromise is essential to the success of a relationship; sacrifice is detrimental to it.
Closure is necessary after a compromise is reached. If reparations need to be made, make them. Apologize if you were wrong; just be careful when choosing your words. Your words should convey that you take or share responsibility for what happened. Be careful not to use blame in your apology by saying, “I am sorry you took it the way you did” or “I am sorry you misinterpreted my intentions.” Those are not apologies. They will only restart the argument or cause lingering resentment.
Do whatever you can to make your partner feel safe in expressing her apology. That is an act of humility on her part so accept it graciously. Give forgiveness whether or not it is asked for. Ask for forgiveness if it is due. This is all crucial to the healing process.
If you are someone who has difficulty admitting you are wrong or finds it hard to say you are sorry, examine your motives. There should be no shame in admitting you made a mistake or erred in judgment. Ask yourself if it is more important for you to be right than it is to reach a resolution. Are you open to looking at another perspective? Once you can acknowledge that your reality is not everyone’s reality, your relationships will be much more successful.
Couples do not have to share all the same opinions for their relationship to work. If in the midst of an argument you cannot come to an agreement and want to disengage from it, there is always the option of agreeing to disagree. It is a perfectly acceptable compromise as long as both of you can let go of the issue without carrying lingering resentments.
There may be times when a conflict cannot be resolved through the use of relationship conflict management skills, no matter how fairly the argument has been fought. When this happens, a neutral third party such as clergy, a psychologist, mediating counsel, or a psychiatrist should be consulted. Trained professionals can provide an environment that feels safe, making both of you comfortable enough to express your feelings. Therapists can provide guidance that gets to the heart of matter, teach you how to effectively communicate as a couple, and prepare you for future problem solving.
Randi Fine is an internationally renowned narcissistic abuse expert and coach. She is the author of the groundbreaking book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing and Recovery, the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book on this subject. In addition to helping survivors recognize their abuse and heal from it, this book teaches mental health professionals how to recognize and properly treat the associated abuse syndrome. She is also the author of Cliffedge Road: A Memoir, the first and only book to characterize the life-long progression of complications caused by narcissistic child abuse.