Relationship Conflict

Our relationships can be a source of great joy, fulfillment, and support, or they can cause terrible pain and become major obstacles in our lives. We tend to get caught up in the swirling emotions whether they seem positive or negative, and whether we are male or female, or young, old, or middle-aged. Most of us seem to believe we are much more logical, aware, and rational, and much less emotional and reactionary than we really are, to boot. We all seem to think that we are the ones who are right, innocent, and justified, and that we are the ones who deserve better treatment, more consideration, and more attention.

What if one day we suddenly stopped trying to get more FROM others for ourselves? What if we could step out of time and space, and look at our relationships from the outside, like a scientist looking in from an observation window?

We can do that to a reasonable extent, if we have as much emotional and mental stability and logic as we seem to think we do.

We can ask ourselves certain questions about our own true intentions and motivations. We can ask ourselves questions about actual events, and about our behavior and words.

We can also ask ourselves about what the other person actually did, and what they really said.

We can ask ourselves if we honestly know all the "facts", or if we just assumed much of them (we humans usually assume much more than we actually know).

What we can NOT know is how the other person really felt, or what their intentions really were. We can NOT know WHY they did something, or did not do something. We can NOT know about their own feelings or thoughts unless they tell us out loud, directly, and THEY can NOT know what our feelings or thoughts are either, unless we TELL them directly.

Things to ask yourself when your relationship is in conflict:

1. What exactly was happening before the most recent conflict in my own life? Was I upset about anything else, anything else AT ALL, before the conflict happened?

2. Was the other person dealing with something else that may have upset them, anything AT ALL?

3. What was my real, true emotion? What was the very first feeling that I felt?

4. What were the actual events that transpired? Did I ask calmly and respectfully for more information, or did I jump to react to my emotion instead?

4. What am I really, actually trying to accomplish with this conflict? What goal do I have in mind? What is it that I'm trying to make happen?
(There is always a goal and a motivation, sometimes it just takes a moment of focus to see it in our own mind.)

5. Which person honestly began the conflict? 

Which person turned their focus from information to emotion? From straightforwardness to deceit? From calm clarifying to assumption? From cooperation to control? From sharing points of view to domination? From action to reaction? From respect to disrespect?
From friendship to fault-finding, blaming, and shaming?

6. If someone I admire had done to me exactly what I had done, would I truly and honestly have not felt hurt or betrayed? Can I really say that?

7. If I was the one who did something deceitful, provoking, controlling, or hurtful, what exactly was my real motivation behind it?

8. Why would I be looking to hurt or deceive a person with whom I choose to be in contact with? Am I trying to prove something to myself? To them? To others? What?

9. If I feel compelled to do disrespectful or hostile things toward another person, why am I remaining in contact with them? What am I getting out of it? Is it right, noble, or good? If it's not, how have I come to this low point?

10. If someone is doing hostile and disrespectful things toward ME, why am I remaining in contact with them? What am I getting out of it? What is my motivation?

11. What have I honestly done to contribute to this person's well-being and improvement of their life and happiness? How often do I go out of my way to put their well-being and happiness above my own?

12. How far have I gone to prove that I was right and they were wrong? Did I have their well-being in mind when I was doing that?

13. Do I seriously believe it's okay to speak to them with aggression, hostility, and abusive language or physical displays? Why would I do that to another person?

14. Do I willingly and happily seek ways that I may have been wrong, or mistaken?

15. Is my real goal to restore peace, good will, and happiness for BOTH, not just for myself? Or am I just seeking a rush-feeling of vindication, retaliation, and triumph over another person?

16. Do I actually listen to the other person's point of view, or do I just believe I'm Sherlock Holmes and think I know everything about the other person's actions and motives without even trying to find out?

17. How do I react when the other person calmly asks me questions? Do I perceive any and all questions as accusations and attacks? (If so, I'm hiding something; what is it?)

18. Do I feel innately superior to this person, but I don't want them to figure it out so I can keep manipulating them?

19. What is my true intention with this relationship?

Is there a possibility that I really want to be the controlling person in this relationship?

Is there a possibility that I don't want to be committed or loyal to this person?

Might I have resentment toward this person that I didn't address?

Does this person remind me on some level of someone else, either someone I resent, or someone I admire?

Am I afraid of this person?

Am I using this person for loneliness relief?

Could I be using this person as a gopher, a sidekick, a little sister or brother, a work-horse, a crutch, a shield, a magnet?

Am I envious or jealous of this person; their charisma, their money, their looks, their family, their success, their intelligence, their talent, their possessions, their happiness, their friends?

Is there real truth in my heart, mind and soul that I have this person's well-being as my priority? Or is that really just something I tell them, and tell myself?

20. How much effort am I willing to put into this relationship, and do I expect the other person to contribute more than I do?
Do I honestly see one of us as more important than the other?
Do I really believe the other person is less capable than I am of contributing equally to the relationship?
Do I seriously feel entitled to receive more than I contribute?
WHY, on all counts?

21. How would the other person feel about my answers to these questions? How do I feel about my answers?

~If you have read through and answered all the way to the end, congratulations, and you may be well on your way to better boundaries, and better relationships. Conflict resolution skills are one of the keys to good relationships between human beings, and those skills are useless if we are not using them inside the realm of honesty. Honesty with ourselves, and honesty with others. If someone is not being honest with us, it is our responsibility to ourselves to strengthen our boundaries and remain aware and alert. And we need to keep in mind that hostility is not necessary in a healthy environment, ever, but truly caring about the well-being of all, for real, is absolutely essential. 

We don't have the "right" to lash out at another when we feel pain, fear, or betrayal. But we do have the right to ask for more information, in order to clarify events, thoughts, and feelings. And we should always ask ourselves all of these things as well.