If you are in a relationship with someone, you've likely had disagreements with your partner. Sometimes it's easy to make up, and other times, it's hard to forgive your partner for their actions.
Maybe you and your partner are always fighting and bickering. You are not willing to back down, and neither are they. In the heat of the moment, you and your partner say hurtful things to each other, and the words cut deep.
Perhaps your conflict is with your children or parents. You can't get along with them, and that's not the relationship you want to have. You hate the arguments, the back and forth, and awkward silences.
You feel like you are walking on eggshells when you speak to your loved one and it seems like the two of you can never see eye-to-eye or that you can't be yourself around them.
I've spoken to people about their interpersonal conflicts, and as a therapist, I've had my share of disputes with loved ones, and friends etc. I've concluded that people appear unwilling to do this "one thing" to improve their relationships, and that's what we'll look at in this article.
You are likely in conflict with your child, husband, or friend because you won't
See your role in the conflict.
Are you pointing fingers at your partner and blaming others when something goes wrong? Or using accusatory language?
When someone does something or says something hurtful, it's easier to say, "you've hurt me." than to ask yourself, "what did I do to contribute to this argument?".
Were you acting indifferent towards your partner or friend? Cutting your partner off mid-sentence? Not acknowledging your husband or wife's feelings?
Can you see that your partner, parent, or child wasn't in the best mood to discuss bills, rent, or lifestyle choices? These are things to consider when looking at the strained relationship with your husband, wife, or loved one.
Holding yourself accountable is not saying, "I'm 100% at fault." it's looking in the mirror and acknowledging that you're not perfect and that your words and actions can either provoke love or resentment.
Let's look at an example.
Let's say I worked with a woman on the receiving end of infidelity. She expressed anger and resentment towards her husband. She loved him, and I admired her for wanting to make things work with him. She said her goal was to not feel pain from the infidelity, but she didn't know how to do so.
She said she didn't know where things went wrong and often labeled him as a "jerk" and "cheater."
She often said, "I didn't do anything wrong," They were in couples counseling to work on the relationship and thought they were making some progress, but she continued to ask herself, "what went wrong?." and "why did he do this?"
At first, she blamed him for many of the negative experiences in the marriage, and I thought there were things she wasn't telling me about their marriage, and we talked about it.
To keep the long story short, she admitted they weren't perfect.
I thought it took vulnerability to say that turning down sex, not wearing "sexy" lingerie for him, and not acknowledging his feelings in heated arguments didn't make him cheat but likely played a role in the behavior.
I and many others would have struggled to do what she did in therapy. She saw her role in her husband's behavior and worked with him in couples counseling to strengthen their marriage.
Eventually, I met the husband, and he shared that he wished he was less dismissive about his wife's contributions to the household and businesses they owned. He said his willingness to go hours and days without speaking to her as a form of "punishment" likely provoked his wife to shut down.
They both admitted they provoked each other.
This is what seeing your role in the conflict looks like. Are you willing to do this? Not seeing your role in the conflict is probably the number one thing you are doing to push your loved one away.
The next time you find yourself in a tense moment with your son, daughter, or partner, ask yourself, what am I doing to influence my relationship with them? We aren't getting along, and what is my role in the conflict?
Am I talking over her? Not acknowledging his feelings? Not fighting fair?
Further, it is your choice not to hold yourself accountable. It is your choice not to accept your children's lifestyle choices. It is your choice not to validate your partner's feelings. You don't have to acknowledge there's some truth in what your loved one is telling you.
If you're deciding to do this, you could be choosing resentment over empathy and coldness over kindness, and that's okay. Maybe amending your relationship with your friend or partner isn't what you really want to do, and I would understand why you wouldn't want to do that - I do.