Relationship Advice for Dealing with Conflict

You could have knocked us over with a feather when we realized this foundational relationship truth!

In fact, we didn’t realize it at the time, but the whole soul mate mystique is based on this idea. Here’s what we’re talking about and it’s a really simple way of understanding relationships (especially ones that work and are successful).

Every single one of us has a “story” about ourselves, our life and our relationships that we think is how we want them to be.

When we are drawn to someone and get into a relationship with them–whether it’s for friendship or intimate partnership, we are responding to a similar, familiar story that we see in this person which matches our story.

Occasionally, when we get into a relationship with someone, we might say to ourselves something like… “You’re so incredible,” “I really like you,” “You have a similar work ethic and like the same things I like,” “I feel like I’ve known you forever” or even something like “I feel like I’ve met my soulmate”

When we say anything like these things, we can know that we have just met someone who matches our “story”–or matches a part of our story.

Of course, there’s never a 100% match in stories and when it comes to our relationships… that’s where¬† misunderstandings, assumptions and conflicts come in.

That’s when you say to yourself, “What happened to the person I married or fell in love with or chose as my friend?”

Here’s an example of what we mean…

Melinda and Bill had been married for several years, with two children. When the kids came along, their agreement had been that Melinda would stay at home with them (plus working a few hours from home) and Bill would make most of the money to support them all.

For a couple of years, their “stories” matched pretty well. Bill and Melinda seemed to get what they each wanted.

Increasingly, however, Melinda noticed herself feeling resentful that her childcare responsibilities tended to be 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Even when Bill was home, it seemed that if one of their children needed to go somewhere, got hurt, or just wanted a peanut butter sandwich, Melinda was the one everyone assumed would do what needed to be done.

She loved Bill and the children dearly but she just wanted a break from time to time and to not always feel “on the job.”

But every time she thought about challenging their “story” and asking Bill to help out more with the kids, Melinda’s stomach knotted up and she felt guilty because this had been their agreement. After all, he was doing his part earning the money…

So here’s where conflict and disconnection can easily happen.

If Melinda allows her guilt to keep her silent about what she’s feeling and she still feels resentful, her feelings will still come out– maybe in cutting, sarcastic remarks and in ways that unknowingly create distance between them.

And Bill doesn’t even know that she wants to change their current story and is in the dark as to why she’s acting the way she is.

If Melinda complains to Bill that he doesn’t help out, he’ll become defensive and push her away.

So what could Melinda do?

Here are some ideas for when your “stories” no longer match and how to rewite them so that they do once again…

1. Recognize what you are feeling. In Melinda’s case, she sees her resentment, tiredness and guilt and decides she can’t ignore it.

2. Get clear about what you want. Melinda wants to share parenting with Bill and when she really thought about it, she would like some time for herself to do something like take a yoga class.

3. Focus on where your “stories” still overlap. Melinda can tell Bill that she still loves staying at home with their kids and is very happy being in love and married to him.

4. Communicate your feelings and your desires without blame or guilt so that the other person stays open to you. Be specific and don’t generalize. Melinda can ask for the two of them to talk about how she can have some time for herself and how Bill can also get his needs met.

She doesn’t say to him “I want more help with the kids” but rather is specific in her request.

5. Listen to how your partner wants your lives together to be–without getting defensive. Bill may even want to have more time with the kids but feels that she has had it all under control.

6. Negotiate how you want your new “story” together to be and how you want to keep your love and connection strong and growing.

So how about you?

Is there someone in your life who has a story that used to match yours but now is a source of irritation and conflict?

We’re not suggesting that you say or do anything that’s NOT congruent with your values or other commitments at all.

We are suggesting that as your relationships with the people closest to you evolve and change, you may want to explore how the ideas of other people and the ways that they want to live are just as important and just as valid as yours.

Can you see how you may start looking at how you can both open to each other and shift or change your stories to be a better match with each other?

Love starts with similar stories and can change over time. Don’t be afraid to make some changes that will create more love and connection in your life.
For more information about how to communicate better with those you love, visit

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