I’ve been exploring confrontation lately, both confrontation with others and self-confrontation. It seems to move forward in your career, relationships and personal development, you have to learn how to resolve conflict and own up to your contribution to it.
It is only through a vast amount of experience and a lengthy and successful maturation process that we gain the capacity to see the world and our place in it realistically, and thus are enabled to realistically assess our responsibility for ourselves and the world.
— Dr. M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled
Authenticity invites confrontation
In order to be truly authentic, I’ve found I have to learn how to express my feelings and ideas. I have to outwardly share my inner world. This sometimes causes discord with others. They don’t have the same priorities or values. They are not as sensitive as I am. They feel hurt, annoyed or frustrated by my words and ways.
I think many of you understand how uncomfortable disagreement is to a deeply feeling and harmony-loving person. Leaving yourself wide open to criticism or judgment is nerve-wracking. My heart skips a beat every time someone disagrees with something I write, but yet, I can’t stop telling my story. I have this strong desire to connect with and help others. That desire and yes, the positive responses I receive, overpower the fear.
Self-confronting, you gotta do it
Marriage therapist, Jayson Gaddis, says three key elements to a healthy relationship are:
1. Having each other’s backs
2. A growth mindset
3. Staying true to yourself within the relationship
It took me a while to fully own up to my contribution to the breakdown of my marriage. I put the majority of the blame for our divorce on my ex-husband. We have been divorced almost four years and only in the last year could I say I didn’t work hard enough to understand/accept/love him.
I talked contemptuously about him with my friends and family. I didn’t have his back.
I was not open to fostering his growth unless he understood and supported ME.
I wanted to stay true to myself but not within the relationship.
You are responsible for your happiness and the health of your relationship
Two of the major things I have learned through my current relationship, thousands of hours of research and countless hours of self-examination, are: it’s up to me to acknowledge my contribution to the conflict in a relationship and to work toward resolution with my partner. I can’t just plan to change my partner or change the relationship. I have to be open to changing me.
You’re supposed to struggle in a relationship
Psychologist and author of Passionate Marriage, David Schnarch, says that all couples go through heated tension and tough times. We are supposed to. It’s part of our personal development. Our relationships help us become better people if we work at and learn from them.
Think about that. It’s not necessarily that you aren’t loving someone enough or your relationship is fundamentally flawed. It’s all part of the process.
You are not alone. All couples have to overcome obstacles.
Your struggles are a catalyst to growth.
How are you going to tackle them?
The best way out is always through. — Robert Frost
Outwardly engaging in conflict is new to me. In my marriage, we often absorbed tension and didn’t argue or talk about it. We thought we were good spouses because we rarely fought.
We simply perpetuated the problem until it was out of control. Inside I seethed and mostly blamed my husband for our unhappiness. I’m sure he did the same, only pegging me for the problems.
If we did talk about our relationship, it was emotional and primarily about each of us presenting our case. We didn’t concede or work on long-term solutions,
According to the article, The Art of Confrontation: How Conflict Can Improve a Feeler’s Relationships, research from Baylor University’s College of Arts and Sciences, found that withdrawal is far more prevalent in distressed relationships and has a negative impact on a couple’s ability to resolve an issue.
I’ve written about introverts and withdrawal, why we do it and why we should limit it. It’s not a long-term healthy solution to conflict.
I didn’t try very hard to teach my husband what being an introvert and highly sensitive person meant. I was angry I had to explain myself in the first place. Why didn’t he understand and support me? I felt shame and guilt for needing time away from my family. I didn’t know how to own my way of being and ask for respect. I took the non-confrontational way out. I found validation and understanding from others.
We attract those who help us grow
In my current relationship, we do things differently. We put our issues out in the open. If I get upset about something my man did, I tell him. If he feels misunderstood or frustrated, he tells me. Neither of us have ever had a partner stay in the situation until resolution is achieved. I think we both feel mad, sad and worry about our viability at times, but we feel pretty darn happy when we slog through the tough stuff and come out the other side stronger.
We get back to a solid place in our relationship by each owning our portion of the problem and committing to making us work long-term. Sometimes it takes a while. I can be stubborn and we both have our ideas of what is ‘right’. As I mentioned in, Ms. Deeply Feeling Loves Mr. Intensely Logical: How to Make a Thinker/Feeler Relationship Work, he tends to take a logical, no bullshit, more factual approach. I want openness, tact and good intentions above all.
I should mention, we have a thoughtful, loving and engaging relationship most of the time, which helps us go the distance. His patience, caring and generosity make me want to be a good partner. That foundation gives me the energy and willingness to work through the times when we aren’t on the same page.
Staying true to yourself
Unlike in my marriage, I have been clear about who I am and what I need to be my best self (including best mother, personal coach and partner). I am more self-aware and better at expressing myself now. If I do struggle to explain my feelings verbally, it comes out sooner or later in my writing. I had to go through some shit in order to do that. I had to learn to confront myself and not just blame others. I had to work on taking the other person’s perspective. I now (eventually) own when my emotions and fatigue get the best of me due to over-stimulation. I have to own my limitations and tell my man directly what I want or feel. The directly part is my challenge but through practice, I believe I’m getting better.
An eye-opening realization has been that my man is staying true to himself within our relationship too. I have to find ways to understand and honor that. That’s part of the deal and part of the reason we have confrontations sometimes.
It’s easy to complain, harder to praise
I’ve had some long talks with my friends and family about my relationship with my man. I’ve spoken honestly about our differences. I’ve tried to eliminate contempt and primarily seek understanding. I’ve made it a point to show them his positive attributes. I have his back.
How are you about self-confronting? Can you own your contribution to conflict? Are you maintaining your integrity within a relationship?